08/06/2004 - 22:00

Tax focus pays for Norton & Smailes

08/06/2004 - 22:00


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RICHARD Norton and Chris Smailes are just a few weeks away from celebrating the 10th anniversary of their boutique law firm Nortorn & Smailes.

Tax focus pays for Norton & Smailes

RICHARD Norton and Chris Smailes are just a few weeks away from celebrating the 10th anniversary of their boutique law firm Nortorn & Smailes.

Their progress over the past decade has been capped off by being ranked as the top tax lawyers in Perth.

Mr Norton and his younger partner Mr Smailes both received nominations in the survey and collectively they were clear leaders.

Last year’s winner, Sceales & Co founder Robert Sceales, also attracted good support.

Messrs Norton and Smailes have been working together since the mid 1980s, initially at national law firm Clayton Utz and latterly at their own firm.

Mr Norton said their specialist focus on taxation and superannuation lent itself to operating as a small practice.

Its clients range from larger companies through to financial planners, accountants and small businesses.

Mr Smailes said accountants were increasingly prepared to seek expert advice from tax lawyers.

“We’re a lot busier than we ever were,” he said. “We get a lot of accountants calling for advice.

“That is far more prevalent now than it was 10 years ago.”

Mr Smailes attributed this to the increasing complexity of tax and superannuation law and the voluminous compliance work facing accountants.

He said capital gains tax concessions for small business owners was one area where accountants often sought advice to ensure their clients would qualify for the concessions.

Another business driver for Norton & Smailes was the increasingly strict application of tax law by tax authorities.

Mr Smailes singled out the application of grouping rules by the Office of State Revenue. This could result in two loosely connected businesses being grouped together, and therefore subject to payroll tax.

Mr Norton said the increasingly broad application of the general anti-avoidance provisions of the tax law had become an issue for many businesses.

He said these provisions were originally designed to target “blatant, artificial and contrived” avoidance schemes yet now they were having a very wide impact.

They could affect business decisions that were made with sound intentions but were subsequently found to constitute tax avoidance.

He said proposed changes to Federal bankruptcy laws were a particular concern.

The changes were ostensibly designed to counter blatant tax avoidance by Sydney barristers but would end up affecting thousands of small business proprietors that transfer assets into a family trust.

Mr Norton said more and more businesses recognised the merit of gaining expert tax advice.

“Businesses are prepared to pay for legal advice and to get us involved at a much earlier stage,” he said.

Mr Smailes believes the firm’s specialist focus on tax and superannuation was one of its strengths.

“We deliberately don’t want to be every man’s lawyer,” he said.


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