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World Tax 2015 is now live online

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World Tax 2015 is now live at www.itrworldtax.

Compiled by a team of specialist legal journalists in offices on three continents, World Tax and its sister publication, World Transfer Pricing, which is already live here are the only publications of their kind to focus on all types of firm, including law firms and economics consultancies, advising on tax and transfer pricing around the world. Both guides help tax executives identify the leading practitioners in 56 jurisdictions, while it has firm listings in many more.

The trend is not uniform around the world, but it is clear management is demanding more from their tax department each year. Rather than spending on external advice, tax directors and their staff are dealing with more work in-house. This is not always to save costs. Tax directors argue that since they know more about their company than any external adviser ever could, it makes sense not to outsource.

But in these days, when substance is supposed to be at the front and centre of everything a taxpayer does, the requirement for as much as certainty as possible is prevalent. For that, specialist advice comes at a premium that taxpayers are willing to pay.

World Tax is a key resource to assist tax executives with locating this specialist advice. Each annual edition rates the tax expertise offered in more than 50 jurisdictions globally, giving tax executives the most comprehensive information about the market for tax advice.

The publication is unique among directories as it classifies professional services, law firms and other tax advice providers together, rather than looking at them separately, because they undoubtedly compete for work.

The fact that this competition exists is also evident in the regular moves that practitioners make between law firms and other providers. It is common for advisers to spend different periods at law firms and a Big 4 practice during their careers.

Not size, quality

If World Tax 2015 was just about depth and breadth of practice, then the firms that have the biggest number of advisers in each practice area, such as corporate tax, indirect tax and transfer pricing, should always come out on top. But those practices may have stayed the same numerically for a number of years and while doing solid work, only retain clients out of loyalty. They may not have equipped themselves to deal with key tax developments.

It is usually clear-cut in most jurisdictions covered in the publication where firms should be placed relative to the tier criteria and to each other. The criteria, which you can see elsewhere in this introduction, that cover size, breadth and depth and practice, and specialisms, are important, but are not the crucial factors. Quality of work has to be.

The few marginal decisions required about which firms should go in which tiers are made according to the impact and innovation that lawyers and advisers bring to client engagements.

Much goes into that criterion – knowledge, experience of advisers, attentiveness, diligence – to work out a seemingly intractable issue where the advice has been in conflict.

Any other way is just not helpful to tax executives.

It is in this context that International Tax Review presents World Tax 2015, its comprehensive guide to the world's leading tax firms. We hope it will help tax executives obtain the best advice for their situation.

Methodology

International Tax Review researchers interviewed tax executives and advisers by phone, e-mail and in-person to compile the tiers of leading firms and write the commentaries for 56 jurisdictions in World Tax 2015.

Each firm that was listed in last year's edition was given the opportunity to make a submission. Other firms mentioned during the research were also sent a research questionnaire. The return of a questionnaire or a research interview did not guarantee any firm a position in any of the tiers.

The corporate interviewees were chosen from the list of clients supplied the leading firms in the market. One of the questions we asked was: "Who is your primary adviser?" We clearly could not know this in advance so the representative sample could only be constructed after the interviews were completed.

Interviews with tax executives were as extensive this year as last year, when we interviewed almost 300. On an anonymous basis – to encourage candour - we asked them questions about, for example, the quality of advice received, opinions about teams and individual advisers and what their advisers did well or badly.

The objective of interviewing both practitioners and tax executives was to get an opinion of tax advisers from their peers and their clients.

Tax directors have their own view of the market, based on the advisers they use, while practitioners have a broader view of practice because they advise many more clients than the number of external advisers a tax director uses.

At the same time, there was a possibility of bias and ulterior motive in what anyone contributed to the research and we tried to minimise this as much as possible through verifying each piece of information supplied, particularly opinions about other firms, which can sometimes be based on hearsay rather than evidence.

No recommendation from any adviser for their own firm or their colleagues in that firm was taken into account. Firms could not pay to be included in the tiers or to have any individuals mentioned but were offered, independently, the opportunity to list their professional details for a fee.

Individuals, particularly those in leadership positions, are mentioned in the text, but this should not be taken as definitive endorsement of their quality as these mentions were not based on any scientific survey

Tier criteria

Tier 1

International network and leading reputation in their own jurisdiction; a number of specialists in planning, transactional, transfer pricing, indirect taxes and litigation, reflected in the size and quality of transactions.

Tier 2

International network and leading reputation in their own jurisdiction; at least one partner in all the areas of tax: planning, transactional, transfer pricing, indirect taxes and litigation.

Tier 3

May not be part of an international network but a leading reputation in their own jurisdiction; at least one partner in two distinct areas of tax.

Tier 4 and below

Niche firm; strong reputation in one area of tax, for example, transfer pricing, indirect taxes or litigation/controversy.

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