Partner Sarah Cardew reveals what’s on her Autumn Statement wish list and much more in this week’s Tax Journal.

One minute with …Sarah Cardew

What sets Teacher Stern apart from other law firms?
I know that every law firm says this, but the quality of Teacher Stern’s clients and the breadth and depth of my colleagues’ expertise. For a relatively small firm in London terms, it really does punch above its weight. The quality of the work undertaken here is excellent, and we are often involved in transactions working with major City law firms. Teacher Stern is lucky to have a talented team of lawyers, and there is an open and friendly culture. There is also a refreshing lack of internal hierarchy and large administrative teams, which can all too often stifle any entrepreneurial spirit in a firm.

What’s in your in-tray?
I always have a mixture of corporate and property transactions to deal with, plus a few fund and employment related queries. I enjoy the mix of technical analysis on the one hand, and transactional work on the other.

What’s the number one practical issue on tax for your clients?
The difficulty of obtaining a definite answer from HMRC on most tax issues. In the good old days, advisers at HMRC would stay within one department for years, and you would build up a rapport with people who had specialist expertise in one particular area of tax. Most of the time, they would even give you their phone number – those days have certainly gone! Now there are fewer advisers at HMRC, and they seem to be moved around more and therefore have less knowledge – and that’s if you can get through to anyone on the telephone in the first place.

What’s on your Autumn Statement wish list?
Some form of relief or encouragement for clients wishing to move property out of a company and into individual names. The government is trying to dissuade ownership of property through a corporate wrapper, yet when looking at moving the property out, clients often discover complex tax problems in doing so.

There should also be zero rating status for repairs to listed buildings. There are so many listed buildings falling into disrepair in this country, and volunteers desperately trying to raise funds to maintain them. It is costly enough to repair and maintain a listed building without adding a 20% cost on top. As a matter of policy, the government should be ensuring that these national treasures do not get lost forever and remove the 20% additional cost to fundraising.

Looking back on your career to date, what key lesson have you learned? Nothing requires an immediate answer. Tax practitioners need the courage to tell clients (whether internal or external) that they need time to look at a tax issue properly. Tax legislation is complex and it is not possible to give an off the cuff answer. In this age of email, this has become an ever increasing issue for practitioners.

Aside from your immediate colleagues, who in tax do you most admire?
I have been fortunate enough to work with Michael Thomas of Gray’s Inn Tax Chambers on a number of occasions recently. When dealing with complicated tax issues, I admire his pragmatic and commercial approach to problem solving. He is a very user friendly, modern tax counsel.

Finally, you might not know this about me but…
I spend a lot of my spare time fundraising for Gene Therapy for Cystic Fibrosis (CF). I know someone with CF and we need to stop children and young adults dying from this cruel and relentless disease, which is caused by inheriting a faulty gene. More than 2.5 million people in the UK carry this gene, which is around one in 25 of the population. Currently, there is no cure. Every week, five babies are born with CF and two people die from CF. •