60-second interview with John Barnett 2020

Thursday, 01 October 2020
‘Wealth is in the spotlight’ says John Barnett TEP, who is speaking at our Virtual STEP UK Tax, Trusts and Estates Conference on 4 November.

What does your firm or organisation do?

Burges Salmon is an independent UK law firm, headquartered in Bristol and with offices in London and Edinburgh.

What has STEP done for you, individually, or as a business?

As a business we very much value being a STEP Platinum Employer. As an individual STEP is a great organisation through which to network with peers in the private wealth industry

What is the most important thing STEP does, in your opinion?

STEP does a great deal of unseen work in lobbying for change, and this is vital. The recent guidance on 5AMLD is one of the most obvious examples, but there are plenty of others ranging from tax to data protection rules.

You will be speaking at the Virtual STEP UK Tax, Trusts and Estates Conference 2020 on 4 November. Would you be able to give us a soundbite on what you’re speaking on, and the main issues for the audience to take away?

The title is UK tax update, which gives a pretty wide scope. With wealth very much in the spotlight, it looks likely to be a particularly topical issue.

Are you hopeful that this event, which is run online, will reach a wider audience than a traditional conference?

Yes. There are lots of things which I will miss about meeting in person and which can’t be replicated, but if being online can reach a wider audience then this is good compensation.

What do you most like about your job?

Finding ways to explain complex tax points in simple terms (to clients or to junior colleagues) and seeing them get it.

.. and what do you feel is most worthwhile?

Upholding the rule of law when it comes to tax. And in case that sounds a bit corny, remember that in other countries, tax advisors (such as Sergei Magnitsky in Russia) have died for standing up to state corruption in their tax authorities.

What would you say to a young person thinking of a career in this industry?

Tax is a great career which can take you in so many other directions. If you're undecided between accountancy, law, journalism, politics, economics...then tax can take you in all of these directions.

Which sectors are likely to see the strongest future growth, do you think?

I’d say technology, renewable energy, connected and autonomous vehicles, and healthcare.

What about jurisdictions?

I suspect that we will see consolidation in the ‘offshore’ world (and a flight to quality) coupled with an increasing convergence between ‘onshore’ and ‘offshore’.

What trends do you see in the global private wealth sector at the moment?

Increasingly ageing populations and, in a number of jurisdictions (such as in the Middle East) the first real transition of wealth from the first generation to the second, promise to mean that we will all be busy. Other than that, I am hopeful that we may be starting to reach a more steady state on increasingly aggressive tax policies from governments and, also hope we may have reached the high point of increasingly aggressive drives towards transparency.

What do you feel are the main challenges facing your organisation in the post COVID-19 world, and how will you deal with them?

On a macro level, I’d say the need for government to raise money and the increased tax burden this will inevitably generate. On a more micro level, trying to balance the advantages of more home working while not forgetting that the office has a number of advantages. 

Which social media channels do you use and why?

Mainly LinkedIn which seems (just about) to know why it's there and stick to it. I am still on Twitter (@johnbarnettCTA) but increasingly find myself bombarded, so am not sure how much longer I will stick with it. I have pretty much given up on Facebook (for personal use) for similar reasons.

Author block
John Barnett
John Barnett

John Barnett TEP is Head of Tax, Trusts, and Family at Burges Salmon in Bristol. He served as chair of the presiding judges at the STEP Private Client Awards from 2017-2019, is Chair of CIOT’s Technical Oversight and Policy Committee and a member of its governing Council, and is a former member of the GAAR Interim Panel.