Associates, In-House Counsels & Advocates

Anmol Anand, Associate, AZB & Partners, shares his experience on LLM from Georgetown University and career in taxation law

Anmol Anand graduated from ILS Law College, Pune, in 2014. He then went to Georgetown University Law for studying LL.M in law of Taxation. After a brief stint as International Tax Analyst at Bloomberg BNA he returned to India and worked with PDS Legal. Currently, he working in AZB & Partners as an Associate.

In this interview, Anmol talks about:

  • His experience at Georgetown University Law Center
  • Career in taxation law
  • Difference between International Tax and Domestic Tax Practice

 

 

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO OUR READERS? PLEASE TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR PRE-COLLEGE LIFE?

Not sure how to put this across for readers, but Hi! I am Anmol, just another lawyer with a curious and ambitious mind.

Well before ILS happened, I had a pretty nerdy journey through the better half of my academic career. I had scored pretty decently in my X and XII, which at that time seemed satisfactory to my ambitious mind.

Coming from a family full of lawyers, I was on the path to become an engineer. I was a science student with aspirations of making it through the best colleges for B.Tech. I also had law as my backup option since I was a firm believer in not wasting time or creating any gap in my resume. I thought of law as an alternate option in the event I would not get through any of the engineering entrances so as to try a different field while perhaps preparing for taking another shot at the engineering entrances a year later.

Soon it was all over and I was left with my score in XII standard and an option to take up engineering colleges’ way down my priority list. Bogged down with not making it to any of the preferred institutions for B.Tech I chose to go ahead with law, at least for a year, wherein ILS was the clear cut choice, being one of the better institutions as per reputation. I mean there were couples of reasons for choosing ILS – one that there was no entrance exam and that selection was based on XII score and second it was away from Delhi.

So from a family of lawyers, and from never having set foot outside Delhi, I chose ILS and flew to Pune.

 

PLEASE TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR COLLEGE LIFE. HOW IMPORTANT WAS YOUR COLLEGE IN SHAPING YOUR CAREER?

ILS as mentioned earlier, was perhaps a stopgap arrangement for me when I made the decision of studying there. Well, it turned out to be the best decisions of my life.

I remember my first day in ILS and was immediately hooked on. I was surrounded by highly competitive peers who either had law as a preferred career choice or were far too serious about ILS being a stopgap arrangement for them. However, soon for me, I became adamant of continuing at ILS and taking my career forward from thereon.

ILS as an institution threw various options at students to pick from. One could enroll oneself in any particular kind of specialised academic cell or pick up a moot-court competition or engage in research paper writing etc. after regular classes. Since regular class hours were not long, I had ample time to pursue a lot of extra-curricular activities.

I would, therefore, remember ILS as a place that taught me the value of opportunities, self-learning and leadership. From acting in dramas to representing college at national level moots to leading the charge for sports activities, I had bagged various opportunities and converted most of them into success, while also making a lot of friends, who will remain so for life.

I also took time out to enrol myself in the Company Secretary Course, which was the first time in point when I got interested in tax laws. Although I could not manage completing it, given that I left the country right after ILS for my masters, it’s important to mention that at ILS it is manageable to be able to pursue the CS and that pursuing so opens up a wider perspective that I believe everyone should endeavour to at least discover.

To conclude, I would say that I had to pick ILS for the lack of better options at that point of time but I am happy to have studied there and gathered most of out.

 

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO GO FOR A MASTERS PROGRAMME? WHAT LED YOU TO CHOOSE TAXATION AS YOUR SPECIALISATION?

Well taking up LLM as the next move in my academic career was largely because I had the will to dig deeper in tax laws.

That does sound boring. But honestly I felt that I had the knack for tax laws once I started pursuing CS, followed by various internships in tax firms. What really had me hooked up to the idea of LLM in tax laws was one of the national moots that my peers and I participated in. It was in international tax and although, unfortunately for us, we ended up as runners up, it opened the idea for me to explore the subject of international tax.

The other reason why I picked taxation as specialisation, apart from tax being a heavily litigated subject, was perhaps because it was rarely chosen by law students (may be because it sounds boring to a lot of people), which to my mind was an opportunity for the future. I knew I had a knack for a subject, which to a lot of people would always remain a text book that they will dread opening.

Therefore, before I could to step into the shoes of being a hardcore tax lawyer, I wanted to dig deeper into the subject, which is why I chose to take up LLM in tax laws as my next move, by the end of fourth year in college.

 

HOW IMPORTANT IS TAXATION AS A SUBJECT FOR LAW STUDENTS? WHAT COURSE OF ACTION WOULD YOU SUGGEST TO STUDENTS LOOKING TO SPECIALISE IN TAXATION?

I believe that even if one is not willing to be an expert in tax, one should not neglect it completely. India is the front-runner when it comes to aggressive tax jurisdictions. Newspapers make headlines almost every week with some or the other tax policy or decision which shows the volatile nature of the subject in India.

It’s not a secret that demonetisation was aimed at booming the revenue by increasing the tax base, GST was brought in for achieving better compliances, GAAR and concepts like equalisation levy were all directed against tax planning and at times to counter what the courts had otherwise held in favour of the taxpayer. It’s important to realise that this country runs majorly on taxes. Most of the times the income tax department tries to extract more than what is allowed to be gathered as taxes as per law. This outreach, apart from being unreasonable, brings with it most interesting issues that are at times dragged to the supreme court only to have the government amending laws to nullify a taxpayer favourable supreme court decision. On the other hand, businesses are always looking to pick up tax advantages in every transaction, which is where the involvement of tax lawyers has become inevitable. Therefore, its time law students should realize the importance of tax laws and work towards putting a couple of pointers regarding the same on their respective resumes.

Taking up specialised courses in tax, pursuing CS/ CA or like courses, taking up internships or going all the way in spending a year or two in tax LLM would definitely help.

 

WHICH UNIVERSITIES DID YOU APPLY FOR LLM? HOW DID YOU CHOOSE GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW CENTRE?

The biggest challenge to apply for LLM in tax laws is that not every university around the world has a tax specialised LLM. Therefore, again I chose to have back up options like National University of Singapore for a general LLM program.

However, I had a preference to go to the United States given its unique and discrete tax policies that are followed world over. I had applied to most of the the specialised tax LLM courses at universities like New York University, Northwestern University, University of Florida, Boston University, Georgetown University Law Centre etc.

Given that Georgetown University was considered to be one of the best in the world for specialised tax LLM courses, it was the inevitable choice for me. The options for tax courses were extraordinary and were far from being imaginable for a student just out of law school like me. I remember this one course, which was called “international business planning workshop”. It was taught by an adjunct professor who was also the chairman of national tax practice at Baker Mckenzie. The course involved practical international tax planning issues for business looking to restructure globally and was graded on one’s understanding of such issues and capability to present the same. All this is to say that the learning experience at Georgetown that I have had is unparalleled and I would highly recommend law students to explore the option of LLM abroad, if possible.

 

WHAT DOES THE CV OF A STUDENT SEEKING ADMISSION TO A PREMIER UNIVERSITY OFFERING AN LLM PROGRAM HAVE TO LOOK LIKE? WHAT SHOULD BE KEPT IN MIND WHILE WRITING SOP FOR LLM ABROAD?

I believe, that the CV of a student looking to apply for an LLM should be clear and reflective of one’s decision of picking a specialisation, if any. It should be short, preferably one page and should include references to instances that show one’s capability of being an opinion maker.

SOP on the other hand could be as long as two pages. It should be crisp, should reflect on the personality of the candidate and the flow should come out naturally. The candidate should put in there his/her thought as to how a particular course at a particular university in a particular city will help the candidate in achieving his/her short term and long term goals.

 

YOU HAVE WORKED AT BLOOMBERG BNA, WASHINGTON DC POST YOUR LLM. HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE WORKING THERE? HOW IS THE WORK CULTURE ABROAD DIFFERENT FROM INDIA?

BNA was a fantastic stint. I would rather say that it was an extension of my LLM program since I was working exactly in what I had just been trained for at Georgetown. My job was research oriented and advisory in international tax and I had to play around with tax laws in about 114 countries, which was tedious but interesting.

Working at BNA under Bruce Reynolds was inspirational. My other colleagues at BNA were very supportive and insightful and it was real fun to be working with them. Work culture was very typical as per American standards. Best part about working in Virgina was that it was about a few minutes away from where I lived in Washington DC, the working hours were decent, people at the organisation were compassionate and respectful and mindful of everyone’s personal life.

Working here in India, although not complaining, is very aggressive. Everyday here is a new challenge, sometimes with added levels of difficulty. Work hours are long, but none of this makes it worse. It is rather better.

 

WHAT FACTORS INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO COME BACK TO INDIA AFTER WORKING IN WASHINGTON DC?

Well the biggest factor that influenced me to come back to India was visa issue. I had the option of opting for a program called CPT, which allows you to study and work alongside, but that seemed to be taking the issue too far for me. Because of the visa issue, it was becoming difficult to find a job at a law firm in the US, since they would not offer one to someone not holding a valid H1B visa already. Clearly that was a vicious circle. With my back against the wall, I decided to move ahead in career and look for jobs in hometown rather than opting for CPT.

 

PLEASE TELL US ABOUT THE RECRUITMENT PROCESS AT AZB? HOW IS THE WORK ENVIRONMENT AT AZB?

AZB Delhi recruitment happens in different manner for different teams I believe. For our team, its need based as is in most cases and we look to identify candidates based on their level of reception to most of the queries and their responses of course. If you are an entry-level candidate, your merits won’t matter as much as your ability to demonstrate interest in the subject.

I think working at AZB exposes you to the best of all practices. I am part of the tax litigation team here. So primarily, I represent a number of major MNCs pan India. I think it’s much more smoother to do so at AZB, given AZB has presence in major cities like Mumbai and Bangalore and therefore traveling from Delhi to at least either of these jurisdictions assures full ground support.
I also engage in tax advisory, which flows from various practices that run parallel at AZB. For instance, I also work with corporate partners of AZB located in different cities, on the tax side of a particular transaction/ restructuring.
What makes working at AZB special is the quality of work and the work culture that I believe is inherent in the nature of every lawyer here. Anyone at AZB can freely walk up to any else for help and help is never denied. Also I should mention that AZB hosts an annual off site for all AZB lawyers across the country, which is an absolute delight to be at.

 

WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY AT WORK LIKE? HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO STRIKE A BALANCE BETWEEN YOUR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL LIFE?

Typical day at work normally starts with courtroom followed by meetings or calls or just completing pending assignments. The best part about working at AZB is the team that I work with. It is spear headed by Mr. Deepak Chopra who is not only inspirational, but also instrumental in making sure that his associates’ personal lives are not compromised. We as a team work for mostly corporate clients representing them before various forums pan India in relation to issues of international tax and corporate tax.

I believe that at this stage of my career, its important to invest more time in professional life, while focusing on personal life on the sidelines. In early stages in a lawyer’s career, it’s easier to do so I believe. Most of my time, these days, is spent in traveling and as soon as I get time off, I like to spend that with family, or get some rest or maybe catch up with some friends. I believe that if one is happy professionally, then at least at the earlier stages of career, one is bound to strike balance with one’s personal life.

 

HOW IS INTERNATIONAL TAX PRACTICE DIFFERENT FROM DOMESTIC TAX PRACTICE?

Totally different. International tax issues arise out of cross border transactions. Most of these cross border transactions involve the interplay of tax treaties between India and the other country at the other end of a particular transaction. Rules relating to interpretation of such tax treaties emanate out of documents published by OECD or other international organisation or negotiations between the two countries. They trump the application of domestic law if they are more beneficial to taxpayers.

 

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A GOOD TAX LAWYER?

To be a good tax lawyer, one needs to have a strong accountancy base. It’s very essential. Secondly, it’s important that tax lawyers, at least in the early stages, focus on lower authorities first rather than jumping to the high court level and Supreme Court level. Thirdly, it’s important for a tax lawyer to keep his/her knowledge up to date, especially given the divergence in view on various tax issues across the country. Fourthly, it is highly recommended for lawyers interested in tax to become acquainted with concepts of international tax and transfer pricing as the world is seeing numerous changes in those fields which are bound to give rise to issues that will be ripe of advisory and litigation in the near future.

 

LASTLY, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR PARTING MESSAGE TO OUR READERS?

My grandfather used to say that a lawyer is a student for life. One should always give importance to self-learning, as the knowledge you gather today will be your biggest weapon in future. Also, learn the importance of networking. Your network will sooner or later decide your fate as to where you land up in future.

 

 

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Rajeev Saxena

    May 1, 2018 at 8:03 am

    Nice reading through honest statements well coordinated disposition

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