We have adopted a specialist team approach to our practices for many years. We feel that this is the way our clients want us to work, and that specialisation leads to the provision of a better service.
In a detailed assessment before Regional Costs Judge Phillips sitting in Cardiff, in Jones and Davies v Davies and Vaughan, I was instructed on behalf of the paying parties (PP) where an important issue was whether the receiving parties (RP) were entitled to recover VAT from the PP on their costs.
The issue of the recoverability of VAT in the assessment of costs is unusual, but a 20% difference in the sum to be paid as a paying party can be very significant. The issue became very contentious in this case, with the RP contending in their skeleton argument that the point raised was “bizarre and bound to fail”.
There are no reported assessment of costs decisions on the point and the leading costs textbooks do not address how the issue should be determined. Prior to my instruction, the parties had been advised by a costs specialist barrister acting as a costs mediator to write to HMRC to seek to resolve the dispute, however that approach was incorrect as HMRC are unwilling to determine a dispute in these circumstances.
The litigation concerned whether there was a valid trust in relation to property/land, where the RP lived and worked, which was referred to in a will. Under the terms of the will the RP were entitled to use the property/land (which was a farm) and receive the single farm payment (or such payments as had replaced it) for their lifetimes. It was established in the substantive litigation that there was a valid trust and the RP obtained an order for costs in their favour.
VAT was claimed in the Bill of Costs. RP are VAT registered and it was contended in the Points of Dispute that VAT should not be claimed from and recovered against the PP; it should be recovered from HMRC as input tax. The RP did not accept that VAT could be recovered as input tax on costs incurred arising from the litigation; they maintained it should be paid by the PP.
44PD.2.3 provides that “VAT should not be included in a claim for costs if the receiving party is able to recover the VAT as input tax”. 44PD.2.4 confirms that: “The receiving party has responsibility for ensuring that VAT is claimed only when the receiving party is unable to recover the VAT or a proportion thereof as input tax.”
Pursuant to 44PD.2.5: “Where there is a dispute as to whether VAT is properly claimed the receiving party must provide a certificate signed by the legal representatives or the auditors of the receiving party substantially in the form illustrated in Precedent F in the Schedule of Costs Precedents annexed to Practice Direction 47.”.
The Certificate as to Recovery of VAT is certificate 6. As stated in Precedent F: “Appropriate certificates under headings (1) and (2) are required in all cases. The appropriate certificate under (3) is required in all case in which the receiving party is a legally aided person. Certificates (4), (5) and (6) are optional. Certificate (6) may be included in the bill, or, if the dispute as to VAT recoverability arises after service of the bill may be filed and served as a supplementary document amending the bill under paragraph 13.10 of Practice Direction 47”.
44PD.2.6 does refer to a reference being made to HMRC and its view obtained and made known but that is in the circumstances “where there is a dispute as to whether any service in respect for which a charge is proposed to be made in the bill is zero rated or exempt”. It did not apply to these circumstances.
The RP provided the Certificate as to Recovery of VAT. However, it was submitted on behalf of the PP that the completion of the Certificate as to Recovery of VAT did not resolve the dispute. 44PD.2.5 does not state completing the certificate will determine the issue of recoverability and the CPR (r.44.4 in this instance) does take precedence over a Practice Direction in any event.
It was contended that the recoverability of VAT is not in abstract, but in relation to the particular supply of goods and services. It was submitted that it was an issue that the Court could determine and that it was necessary to refer to the relevant legislation and the subject matter of the litigation.
The legislation to consider is s.24 of the VAT Act 1994. The relevant definition of input tax is “VAT on the supply to him of any goods or services used or to be used for the purpose of any business carried on or to carried on by him”. The guidance from HMRC (VIT13600) is that the substance of the legal action and the activities of the business must be connected.
The Court was referred to Preasto v Consulting UK Ltd v Revenue and Customs Commissioners  EWCA Civ 353;  STC 724 in which the Court of Appeal was concerned with the recoverability of VAT as input tax on solicitors’ charges in different circumstances, but cited binding authorities confirming that consideration of economic realities is a fundamental criterion of the VAT system (see paragraphs 26 and 27) and, in particular, stated at paragraph 28: “As to the use of the supply for the purposes of the taxable person’s business, both parties accepted that the UT at  stated the correct test, as established by CJEU case law, namely that a supply will be treated as being used for the purpose of the business of a taxable person if there is ‘a direct and immediate link’ between the supply and one or more output transactions or between the supply and the taxable person’s economic activity as a whole.”
The reported judgment included the following note referring to De Voil Indirect Tax Service (Volume 3 at p.410), where it is stated: “On legal costs more broadly, HMRC suggests that the extent to which substance of an action relates to the activities of a business is a matter of judgment and every case is unique. HMRC will need to think about all the details before reaching a conclusion.”
Regional Costs Judge Phillips accepted that the above was the applicable legislation and guidance and went on to determine the issue of recoverability of VAT.
He held: “Standing back, taking everything into account, looking at the pleadings, the witness statements and all the documents that are relied upon, accepting the defendants live at [the property], it seems to me that the receiving parties in this case also ran a farming business from [the property], in respect of which they received the Welsh Government farm subsidy and in respect of which they derived an income. Both defendants were VAT registered and have clearly expended a considerable amount of money on the farm. Whilst in addition, the property may have provided them with a home in which to live, that does not detract from the fact this property was their livelihood in which they had invested considerable time, effort and money. Whilst they may have been sued as individuals and whilst the retainer … and the invoices were addressed [to them as individuals], I am satisfied and find that there was a direct and immediate link between the provision of legal services and to the defendants’ farming business. I also remind myself that if the court had any doubt in its mind, which I make clear it does not, this being a standard basis assessment any such doubt would have to be resolved in favour of the paying party.”
The conclusion was that VAT was not recoverable on an inter partes basis. Permission to appeal was sought by the RP but refused and ultimately an appeal was not pursued. The RP ended up receiving less than had been offered.
The following are invited to contact the clerks (as above) for our barristers’ services:
Licensed Access clients, who may hold a licence issued by the Bar Standards Board, or be a members of a professional body which has been recognised by the Bar Standards Board; and
Members of the public who wish to instruct a barrister under the Public Access scheme.
We will provide you with a quote as soon as possible and, unless you are informed otherwise, within 14 days. If your matter is urgent please specify this when contacting chambers, and we will work to expedite your query. Guildhall Chambers are used to receiving and responding to work on an urgent basis.
Our barristers act both in advising clients and in representing clients in court. Barristers from Guildhall Chambers appear at all levels of the civil and criminal courts, including the Magistrates’ Court, the Crown Court, the County Court, the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
Our barristers act in criminal work for the Crown Prosecution Service (hereafter ‘CPS’) and other prosecuting agencies, as well as for Defendants, at all stages in the criminal justice process.
In civil work, our barristers act for both Claimants and Defendants at all levels of the civil justice system.
We also act for public bodies (particularly in Court of Protection work). Some of our members are members of the Attorney General’s Panel Scheme, which means that they can be instructed to act for the government.
Members of chambers also act for clients in cases heard in the Land Tribunal and in the Employment Tribunal.
If you have any questions about whether a barrister from Guildhall Chambers is able to represent you or has experience in representing clients in a particular area of law, or in a particular tribunal or court, then please do not hesitate to contact the clerks.
Public Access (also known as Direct Access)
If you are a member of the public, the Bar Standards Board’s Public Access Guidance for Law Clients is available here.
This guidance will help you to understand how the Public Access scheme works and explains how you can use it to instruct barristers directly.
Please note not all of our barristers act on a public access basis. Please check with the clerks and on the Public Access page on our website to see which barristers are able to act on a direct / public access basis.
We have barristers who are able to provide services on a public access basis including in the following areas:
What are the levels of fees to be charged for Public Access work?
Guildhall Chambers provides further information on the likely level of fees to be charged for specific areas of work if the barrister is instructed on a Public access basis. We provide this information in relation to work on a Public Access basis for:
Please click on the relevant area to find out more information about the likely level of fees for the services of our barristers in these areas. This information is also available in hard copy format.
Please note that all of the above indicative fee information is still dependent upon the usual factors which may increase (or in some circumstances decrease) the likely cost of the barrister’s services.
Please read this information when considering the range of likely fees in these areas of Public Access work. For the most accurate information on the potential fees involved in your case, please contact the clerks.
If I instruct a barrister on a Direct Access basis, will there be any additional costs to pay or just the barrister’s fee?
It is also important to note that in relation to direct access work there may be costs, fees and/or charges which you will have to pay in addition to the fees which are payable to the barrister. In order to find out more about what (if any) additional costs arise, it is sensible to discuss this with the clerks (or the barrister who you instruct) at the outset.
Examples of additional charges which may be payable in addition to the direct access barrister’s fee include:
Court fees. Whether a court fee is payable (and how much that court fee will be) will depend on the circumstances of your case albeit in many (but not all) cases the value of the remedy which you are seeking will be a key factor;
There may occasionally be charges for photocopying and/or bundle preparation;
Barristers in the following teams most often charge on the following basis for the following areas of work (in each instance please contact the clerks to check that this system of charging will be applicable for your case):
Administrative and Public Law work is most often charged (or calculated) on the basis of an hourly rate.
Court of Protection work is most often charged (or calculated) on the basis of an hourly rate.
Clinical negligence and personal injury work is most often charged (or calculated) on the basis of an hourly rate.
Commercial work is most often charged (or calculated) on the basis of an hourly rate.
Costs and litigation funding work is most often charged (or calculated) on the basis of an hourly rate.
Criminal work on a private basis (where the client is not eligible for legal aid) is normally charged (or calculated) on the basis of an hourly rate fixed fee.
Employment and discrimination work is most often charged (or calculated) on the basis of an hourly rate for advisory work. Representation in court is most often charged on the basis of a fixed fee.
Insolvency work is most often charged (or calculated) on the basis of an hourly rate.
International and offshore work is most often charged (or calculated) on the basis of an hourly rate.
Property and estates work is most often charged (or calculated) on the basis of an hourly rate.
Regulatory and disciplinary work is most often charged (or calculated) on the basis of an hourly rate.
Sport law work is most often charged (or calculated) on the basis of an hourly rate.
Please note that this is guidance for the approach which is taken in most cases in the relevant area of work. It does not preclude the barrister from charging fees on an hourly rate or a fixed fee basis (as appropriate) where the circumstances of the case, the work which the barrister is required to undertake, and the nature of the instructions best suit that model.
All fees are charged exclusive of VAT (where applicable).
Please contact the clerks in the first instance for information about fees and fee quotes because they will be able to provide you with the clearest information about what the services from barristers at Guildhall Chambers may cost. The clerks will also be able to provide you with information about what may cause any fee quote or estimates to vary. The clerks can only provide you with a quote based on the information which you provide to them, so please endeavour to provide a written summary of the important aspects of your case.
All quotes will be provided within a reasonable time, and in any event the clerks will aim to provide a quote within 14 days. If you require work urgently, please inform the clerks about this when seeking a quote.
We will always aim to set out quotes clearly, but if you receive your quote and there is something that you do not understand, please do not hesitate to contact the clerks. There is also an enquiry form on our website which allows you to provide the clerks with information for the purposes of generating a quote for your case.
Barristers in chambers can charge on an hourly rate basis or on the basis of a fixed fee. However, unless a fixed fee is set when a barrister initially receives instructions to undertake work on your behalf, then the barrister will work on an hourly rate basis.
Do barristers at Guildhall Chambers work on a “no win, no fee” basis? Can I fund my case with legal insurance?
Our barristers will also accept instructions under conditional fee arrangements (colloquially known as ‘no win, no fee’ arrangements) however the barrister is not obliged to agree to work on this basis and will have to enter into a written agreement to that effect in order to do so. Please contact the clerks in order to discuss whether this is an arrangement which you would like to explore in the circumstances of your case.
Do any of the barristers at Guildhall Chambers work without requiring a fee?
Some barrister will work without requiring a fee from their client (this is referred to as “pro bono” work). However, barristers are not required to act on this basis. If this is something which you are interested in for the purposes of your case, then please contact the clerks. Please note that pro bono work is normally provided through the Pro Bono ‘Advocate’ Scheme. For more information on that scheme please follow this link https://weareadvocate.org.uk/ or call 020 7092 3960.
Do barristers at Guildhall Chambers provide their services to clients who are funded by the Legal Aid Agency?
Barristers at Guildhall Chambers do provide their services to clients who are funded by the Legal Aid Agency. If you are unsure whether you are eligible for legal aid then please see the legal aid eligibility calculator at https://www.gov.uk/check-legal-aid.
Please note that barristers cannot do legal aid work unless they have been instructed by a solicitor. However, just because your case is eligible for legal aid funding does not mean that you cannot choose to proceed under Public Access scheme.
Timescales for a case may vary depending on factors such as the availability of the barrister, the type and the complexity of the case, the approach of the other side and court waiting times. Whilst all barristers will aim to complete any written and/or advisory services required on a case within 28 days this will not be possible in all cases. If there is a particular deadline then this must be raised and agreed with the barrister when any instructions are given to the barrister.
Please note that due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic many cases (both civil and criminal) have been delayed and there are significant backlogs in the system. Whilst this will not usually alter the timescales for the services which barristers at Guildhall Chambers will provide, it may mean that timescales given in relation to the progress of your case through the courts will be affected.
Whether the fees are to be charged on an hourly rate or a fixed fee basis there will be certain factors which may increase the level of work involved, and therefore the fees which are likely to be charged (or the number of hours involved). Those factors include:
The seniority of barrister required for your case. The more experienced the barrister (which is normally calculated on the number of years since they were called to the bar) the higher the likely level of fees to be charged.
The number of papers involved in the case and/or the complexity of the factual issues involved.
The time in which you require the work to be turned around and/or the services to be provided. More urgent work will often involve a higher level of fee (for example if this involves the barrister working over a weekend or prioritising your case over other work).
The amount of time that your case will require the barrister to be in court.
The amount of travel time required for the barrister to get to and from court. Travel time is usually charged at half the barrister’s hourly rate.
The complexity of the legal issues involved.
The significance of the case more generally, for example if the case has wider ramifications for the client generally and/or public or legal significance.
If you are concerned about the level of fees which may be involved in your case please inform the clerks at the earliest opportunity who will be able to discuss with the barrister how costs can be managed on the case.
Please not that fee indications are (unless expressly agreed otherwise) not “caps”, and if a barrister is required to do work on the case, then they will charge accordingly. We will always aim to inform you if the fees on the case are likely to exceed the fee quotes or estimates previously provided.
The best way to manage the level of the fees is to discuss the circumstances of your case (including any issues regarding fees) with the clerks when initially seeking to instruct a barrister.
Barristers at Guildhall Chambers are regulated by the Bar Standards Board (hereafter ‘BSB’). You can contact the BSB at 289-293 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7HZ or by telephone on 020 7611 1444. Please follow this link to the BSB website: https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk.
If you are interested in seeing: (i) whether a barrister has a current practising certificate or (ii) whether a barrister has any disciplinary findings (which are published on the BSB website) then you can search the Barristers’ Register on the Bar Standards Board website here.
What is the complaints procedure at Guildhall Chambers, and do I have any further rights of redress if I am unhappy with how my complaint has been handled?
If you have any complaints about the services provided by a barrister at Guildhall Chambers, then please read our complaints policy here.
This provides information about:
Our complaints procedure;
Any right which you may have to contact the Legal Ombudsman (hereafter ‘LeO’). This is an independent body which can help you if you have complained to your lawyer and are not happy with the response. The LeO’s website is https://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/ and they can be contacted by telephone on 0300 555 0333. Please read the FAQs section of the LeO website for more information about how to complain to the LeO;
Chambers does not have a time limit for bringing complaints under its complaints policy to be processed within the complaints procedure at Guildhall. However the LeO does have time limits for bringing a complaint, which is ordinarily (if the complaint arises from an act or omission after 5 October 2010) six years from the act/omission which is the subject of the complaint and/or three years from when the complainant should reasonably have known that there was cause for complaint.
You can also search the decision date on the LeO’s website here.
This shows providers which received an ombudsman’s decision in the previous 12 months, and whether LeO required the provider to give the consumer a remedy.
Guildhall Chambers have premises in both London and Bristol. Please find the addresses for our offices below:
5-8 Broad Street Bristol BS1 2HG
23 Broad Street Bristol BS1 2HG
Central Court Southampton Buildings London WC2A 1AL
It is advisable to contact the Bristol offices in the first instance, because Guildhall Chambers do not have a permanent staff presence at the London office (although calls will be forwarded from the London office). This does not inhibit barristers from Guildhall Chambers from representing London clients or in appearing very frequently in the courts in London.
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