Overcoming the impossible: Q&A with David Small

By Hannah Downie, CA Today

2 May 2017

How do practitioners keep on top of constantly evolving tax law? Advocate David Small explains.

What do you do?

I am an Advocate – the Scottish equivalent of a Barrister – specialising in tax law.

What are the main challenges facing your area of work at the moment?

The pace and volume of proposed and implemented changes to the law – with Brexit likely to add further momentum in the medium term!

How will you deal with these challenges?

By accepting it’s impossible to keep fully up to date with everything, but being extra careful with research before I decide what I think about any particular issue.

Photo of David Small

You will be speaking at ICAS annual Tax Conference which takes place on 23 May, Dealing with Tax in Uncertain Times, what will you be speaking on and what are the main issues in this area?

I’m speaking on “Tax Planning – Where are The Boundaries”. The main issue is that the very understandable rejection of avoidance by the courts and Parliament has turned into a legal backlash that is in danger of going too far. It’s time to begin to think about restacking some cards in favour of deserving taxpayers.

What do you most like about your job?

Being in the position where people want to know what I think (even if they don’t always take my advice!).

... and what do you feel is most worthwhile?

Rescuing a taxpayer from injustice when he or she has got lost amidst the tangles of the system.

What would you say to someone thinking of a career in tax?

Many people find tax is difficult to enjoy as an academic subject but once you start applying it in practice the human element makes it fascinating.  

Go for it!

The ICAS Tax Conference 2017 takes place at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Edinburgh on Tuesday 23 May. Cost: Members and Students: £192 Non-members: £234 CAPS Firm: £174. All prices include VAT.


  • Tax

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