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Michael Furness QC

Call: 1982    QC: 2000

+44 (0)20 7306

Trusts, Tax, Probate & Estates

Michael began his career at the bar as a private client trust lawyer, and this work still forms an important part of his practice.

Recent UK cases include:

  • Re Hostage UK [2019] – an important decision on date of presumption of death of an individual kidnapped in the Yemen.
  • Scullion v Cooper [2018] obtaining court approval for a compromise under which a trade union strike fund was dedicated to charity.
  • Labrouche v Frey, [2016] a long-running piece of trust litigation, which culminated in a 7-week trial. Judgment was handed down in February 2016, and Michael’s client was acquitted of all the breaches of trust alleged against her. The case raised issues about trustee accounting, the meaning of wilful default, and tracing, as well as issues regarding the succession to founder’s rights in a Liechtenstein Anstalt.
  • Rawstron v Freud [2014] represented the executors of Lucian Freud in a dispute about a secret trust created by his will
  • Day v RCM [2013], appearing in the Court of Appeal in linked appeals concerning an enduring power of attorney, inter vivos gifts of chattels and the rule in Strong v Bird.

He advises on and conducts international succession and trust disputes, and has appeared in five major pieces of litigation in Bermuda in recent years. He also conducts and advises on litigation in the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas. He is currently acting for members of a prominent Hong Kong family in relation to a high-value dispute over a family trust, and for a US/UK family in relation to the distribution of a high-value trust fund in Bermuda.

During 2018 and 2019 he gave extensive advice and drafting services to the government of the British Virgin Islands on its economic substance legislation, and the relation regulations and code. He has also advised on the impact of AMLD 5 on offshore trust jurisdictions.

He has appeared in overseas courts as an expert witness on English trust law issues, in the Netherlands and Canada.

Michael also undertakes tax litigation on behalf of both HMRC and taxpayers.

Recent tax cases include:

  • Scott v HMRC [2018] (UT) and 2019 (CA). Representing the taxpayer in a dispute over the interaction of corresponding deficiency relief with the rate of CGT.
  • Proteus and Samarkand v HMRC [2017]. Representing the taxpayers in the Court of Appeal in a tax appeal to, combined with a judicial review of HMRC practice concerning partnerships investing in films.
  • Morgan Lloyd v HMRC [2016] challenging the convention compatibility of the regime for taxing the acquisition of interests in taxable property by registered pension schemes
  • Hargreaves v HMRC [2015]. Appearing in the Court of Appeal (alongside David Goldberg QC and Claire Montgomery QC) on an appeal which raises the issue of the right of a taxpayer to require HMRC to justify making an out of time assessment before the taxpayer is required to make his defence on the merits.
  • Re Travers [2013]. Representing the estate of P L Travers in a successful challenge to HMRC’s attempt to impose the special rate of income tax for trusts on royalties from the Mary Poppins stage musical.
  • Mayes v HMRC [2011] Successfully defending a tax avoidance scheme in the Court of Appeal.
  • DCC Ltd v HMRC [2010] Successfully representing HMRC in the Supreme Court in an appeal on the taxation of gilt repos.

He also advises and appears for the Hong Kong Commissioner of Inland Revenue. He has appeared in the Court of Final Appeal in Shui On Credit Co Ltd v CIR [2010] and Nice Cheer Investments [2012] and has made several appearances at first instance and in the Court of Appeal.

He undertakes contested probate litigation (see Carapeto v Good [2002] and Re Fitzgerald [2014])

Before taking silk Michael appeared regularly for the Attorney-General in charity matters, and since then he has continued to advise charities on trusts and tax issues, and to undertake charity litigation (in the HSBC case referred to above he appeared for the Attorney-General of the Cayman Islands on charity aspects of the litigation – and see also Bayoumi v Womens Total Abstinence [2003] (CA))

Recent work includes:

  • Advising on the possible transfer of the assets of a charity to an overseas’ foundation
  • Advising a major publically funded charity on various issues arising under its constitution.
  • Assisting a major UK charity in in obtaining a Charity Commission order under S105,
  • Advising a religious charity on how to respond to a Charity Commission contention that its objects are not charitable and not for the public benefit, and
  • Advising the trustees of a charity (the Cup Trust) which had past involvement in a large-scale tax avoidance scheme.
  • Advising a charity which had concerns about the way it had administered its gift aid donations
  • Advising on the legality of political donations made by wholly owned trading companies
  • Advising on the terms on which a major property development to further the charity’s objects should be undertaken