What is good tax advice?

It might seem like a strange question for me to be posing, but the answer is perhaps not as obvious as some might think.

In my mind, the starting point should always be to have a strong relationship with an experienced and qualified tax adviser who has earned your trust. But then you hear second-hand news from friends and family, or you find yourself speaking directly to another potential adviser.

I think most of us feel quite confident in filtering out those whose advice simply does not stand up to some basic scrutiny, but how to assess the quality of the advice from two equally credible sources?

A good starting point is to take a moment to decide what a quality piece of advice would mean to you. My rather simple view is that:

  • it helps you to achieve a commercial objective tax-efficiently
  • it gives you a clear understanding of any uncertainties (all tax advice has uncertainties)
  • those uncertainties are described in terms of the personal or commercial risks.

So what sort of questions should you be asking of any adviser? Here is my shortlist:

  1. Which are the key aspects of my current situation and objectives that you have focused on with this solution?
  2. Which aspects were hardest to address or have been ignored?
  3. What alternative solutions did you consider and why were they discounted?
  4. How have you stress-tested this advice – what sort of things might happen moving forward that would conflict with this advice?

All good advisers will welcome being asked these and other questions. At the end of the day, it does all boil down to a question of trust and that trust is built in these conversations.


For further information please contact Nick Scull or enquiry@garbutt-elliott.co.uk – 01904 464 100