Engaging experienced tax attorneys is crucial to navigate the complex legal landscape effectively- Adarsh Somani, Partner at Economic Laws Practice

This interview has been published by  Priyanka Karwa and The SuperLawyer Team

Can you tell us a bit about your journey and how you ended up pursuing a career in law, particularly specializing in taxation and related areas?

I was born and raised in a family with a deep-rooted background in law and taxation. From a very young age, I was exposed to discussions about legal matters and the intricacies of tax law (though am not claiming that I particularly followed everything!). My father and some close relatives were established tax specialists, and their passion for their work naturally influenced my interests as I grew older.

 As I progressed through my education, I found myself naturally gravitating towards subjects that aligned with the legal and financial world. I was particularly drawn to the complexities of taxation and how it played a vital role in shaping economies and businesses. I realized that taxation was not just about numbers and calculations; it was a dynamic field with constantly evolving laws and regulations that had significant implications on individuals and organizations alike.

After completing my legal education and obtaining the necessary qualifications, I ventured into the field of tax law, ready to take on the challenges that came with it. Over the years, I have had the privilege of assisting numerous clients with tax planning, tax controversy matters, and cross border taxation, among other areas.

 My journey in the field of law, particularly specializing in taxation, has been incredibly rewarding. I continue to be fascinated by the ever-changing tax landscape and remain dedicated to helping individuals and businesses navigate the complexities of tax law to achieve their financial goals while ensuring compliance with all relevant regulations.

 As I look back on my path, I feel grateful for the strong foundation laid by my family’s background in law and taxation, as it has shaped me into the professional I am today—one who is deeply committed to making a positive difference in the lives of those I serve.

With almost 18 years of experience in tax law, could you share some pivotal moments or experiences that shaped your expertise and passion for this field?

Over the course of my 18-year journey in tax law, I have encountered numerous pivotal moments & experiences that have profoundly helped my passion inch northwards for this field. Some of these moments include:

1. Early Mentorship: Right from the guidance of my father in early stages of my career as well as in the early years of my career and support and push of my first few mentors at BMR Advisors (all seasoned tax attorney/ specialists) the expertise and passion were always enlarging. Their guidance, wisdom, and willingness to share their knowledge played a crucial role in my development as a tax professional. Witnessing their dedication to their clients and their mastery of complex tax matters inspired me to strive for excellence in my own practice.

2. Challenging Tax Cases: Throughout my career, I encountered several highly complex and challenging tax cases that required innovative solutions. These cases pushed me to expand my knowledge, research skills, and critical thinking abilities. Successfully resolving these intricate tax issues gave me a sense of accomplishment and reinforced my passion for tax law.

 3. Staying Current with Tax Law Changes: Tax law is a constantly evolving landscape, with frequent changes to regulations and tax codes. Staying up-to-date with these developments has been a significant challenge, but it is also crucial for providing accurate and effective advice to clients. My commitment to ongoing education and continuous learning has been instrumental in maintaining my expertise in this dynamic field.

 4. Cross-Border Taxation: As businesses increasingly operate on a global scale, cross-border taxation has become my prominent area of focus. Handling these matters exposed me to the complexities of dealing with multiple jurisdictions, trade agreements and varying compliance requirements. These experiences broadened my perspective and enriched my understanding of the global tax landscape.

5. Advocacy and Tax Reform: Throughout my career, I have been involved in advocating for changes in tax laws and regulations to benefit taxpayers and improve fairness in the system. Engaging in discussions with policymakers, participating in tax reform initiatives, and contributing to public discourse on tax-related matters allowed me to see the potential impact of legal professionals in shaping tax policy.

 6. Sharing Knowledge: As my career advanced, I found joy in sharing my expertise with aspiring tax professionals and clients alike. Conducting seminars, writing articles, and participating in panel discussions not only helped disseminate knowledge but also encouraged me to continuously refine my understanding of tax law.

Each of these pivotal moments and experiences has contributed to my passion for tax law and my commitment to provide top-notch legal counsel to my clients. The ever-changing and intellectually stimulating nature of this field, combined with the ability to make a tangible difference in the lives of individuals and businesses, continues to fuel my enthusiasm for the work I do as a tax attorney.

As a Tax Partner at Economic Laws Practice, you focus on GST, customs & trade, providing strategic transaction advisory and policy counsel. Could you shed some light on the scope and significance of these areas in the business landscape?

ELP first of all has been blessing, more of a home coming I would say! A lawyer at a law firm, my first!.  Businesses as well as economy are all fueled by tax and trade policies. Navigating the complexities of these areas is vital for businesses to ensure tax efficiency, regulatory compliance, and a competitive edge in the global market. As a Tax Partner at Economic Laws Practice, my role involves assisting businesses in harnessing the opportunities and overcoming the challenges presented by these dynamic aspects of the Indian economy.

You’ve advised multinational and domestic companies on tax-efficient value chains in business. What are some key principles or strategies businesses should keep in mind when aiming for tax efficiency?

When aiming for tax efficiency in their value chains, businesses should consider several key principles and strategies to optimize their tax positions while remaining compliant with applicable tax laws. Some important principles and strategies to keep in mind include (i) Proper Entity Structure; (ii) Interplay of Customs and Transfer Pricing Compliances; (iii) Tax Treaty & Trade Agreement Utilization; (iv) Location of Intellectual Property; (v) Business Object Mapping, the most Optimum structure may not work for all businesses in view of its objectives!; (vi) Use of Tax Incentives and Exemptions; (vii) Serious credits to documentation; (viii) Flexibility for ever changing policy landscape; etc

Also, such assignments would often involve engaging with experienced advisors & consultants on different subject matters as well as jurisdictions. The learning from these experiences can always prove to be  valuable.

For any budding lawyer, it is important to note that while pursuing tax efficiency is a legitimate business goal, businesses must ensure that their tax strategies comply with the law and are not driven solely by aggressive tax avoidance practices, which may be subject to scrutiny and potential legal consequences. Striking the right balance between tax efficiency and compliance is crucial for the long-term success and reputation of any business.

Indirect tax legislations can be complex and vary across different industries. What are some common challenges you encounter while advising clients, and how do you overcome them?

Advising clients on indirect or other tax legislations presents challenges due to complexities and variations across industries. Common hurdles include interpreting ambiguous laws, staying updated with changing tax regulations, addressing cross-border transactions, and managing compliance burdens. Overcoming these challenges involves continuous research, industry-specific expertise, collaboration with subject matter experts, cautious interpretation of laws, and developing cost-effective solutions. Communication with non-tax professionals aids in ensuring client understanding. Additionally, creating robust compliance frameworks, automating processes, and representing clients in disputes or litigation contribute to providing effective advisory services.

Tax litigations can be high-profile and challenging. How do you approach such cases, and what advice would you give to companies facing potential tax disputes?

Approaching high-profile tax litigations requires a thorough understanding of the specific tax laws, industry intricacies, and potential implications. My strategy involves conducting in-depth research, consulting past precedents, and collaborating with experts to build a strong case. For companies facing potential tax disputes, my advice is to stay proactive by maintaining meticulous records, complying with regulations, and seeking professional advice early on. Engaging experienced tax attorneys is crucial to navigate the complex legal landscape effectively. Open communication with tax authorities, willingness to resolve disputes amicably, and a focus on compliance can help mitigate risks and achieve favorable outcomes.

 As a part of Business World’s elite 40 Under 40 Club of Young Law Achievers and being recognized by The Legal 500 Asia-Pacific, what personal qualities or professional attributes do you believe have contributed to your success in the legal field?

As a member of Business World’s distinguished 40 Under 40 Club of Young Law Achievers and having earned recognition from The Legal 500 Asia-Pacific, my success in the legal field can be attributed to several personal qualities and professional attributes. Continuous learning, a proactive approach in gathering facts to build strong business acumen, effective problem-solving skills, and a commitment to innovation are some of the key factors that have contributed to my achievements. Moreover, maintaining personal integrity and cultivating professional networks and relationships have played pivotal roles in fostering credibility and growth.

Additionally, I must acknowledge the invaluable support and contribution of my exceptional team & mentors, whose dedication and professionalism have been crucial to my personal success. Their commitment to excellence during business hours and camaraderie during social gatherings have been truly inspiring and rewarding.

 Needless to add that by embodying these personal qualities and professional attributes, I have been able to make a positive impact in the legal field, earn recognition from industry peers, and achieve success in my career as a tax specialist.

Apart from your legal career, you also engage in speaking at tax & regulatory conventions and write articles for leading publications. How do these activities complement your professional work, and what drives you to share your knowledge in this way?

Engaging in speaking at tax and regulatory conventions and writing articles for leading publications complements my legal career by allowing me to share my knowledge and insights with a broader audience. These activities serve as platforms to disseminate complex legal concepts in a more accessible manner, contributing to the professional development of peers, clients, and the wider community. The drive to share knowledge stems from a passion for empowering others with valuable information, fostering a culture of continuous learning, and making a positive impact in the legal and business domains. It also reinforces my commitment to staying at the forefront of industry trends and best practices.

Many fresh law graduates aspire to have a successful career like yours. What advice would you give to them as they begin their journey into the legal profession, particularly those interested in taxation and related fields?

Certain non-negotiable attributes for any aspiring lawyer include a strong focus on continuous learning, an earnest pursuit of mentorship, a willingness to embrace technological advancements, the development of impeccable communication skills, an unwavering work ethic, perseverance in navigating challenging circumstances, and a receptive attitude towards exploring diverse opportunities. These foundational qualities form the bedrock for a successful and rewarding career in the legal profession, enabling growth, adaptability, and the ability to excel in an ever-evolving legal landscape.

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