This article is written by Team LawSikho.
Tax law is one of the most lucrative and exclusive areas of law practice. There are two clear different verticals within tax law practices – indirect taxes and direct taxes. Very often, lawyers specialize in one of these. It is also not uncommon to super-specialise in a specific area within these, such as customs, or transfer pricing, anti-dumping duties or international taxation.
So, what are the top tax law firms in India? We asked 20 tax lawyers, randomly selected from our mailing list, for their opinion. We also went through recent surveys and awards to understand how various tax law practices have been doing over the years. We are not saying that this is the definitive list of best tax law firms in India, but this reflects market perception quite closely. We have tried to give a picture of the kind of work these law firms do so that if you are interested in tax law, or in working with one of these firms, you have a benchmark to work with.
If you are interested in a career in tax law, do check out our online course on Corporate Tax, which includes weekly live classes, hard copy study material, live doubt clearing and 24/7 access for practical skills training in the field of taxation law.
If you are a wannabe tax lawyer, or a young lawyer looking to make a mark in the area of taxation, consider that going through this list will give you a lot of ideas about what are the areas of tax law in which you may want to develop your expertise. You will also understand the gaps in your current level of knowledge and where you need to add new skills in your repertoire to succeed as a tax lawyer or even get a well paid job at one of these firms.
And as always, we are always available at LawSikho to help with your skill development journey.
So, let’s get to the list.
1. Lakshmikumaran and Sridharan:
Lakshmikumaran and Sridharan(L&S) is a full-service law firm. The key practice areas of the firm are Tax, International Trade, Intellectual Property and Corporate laws. Founded by Mr. V. Lakshmikumaran and V. Sridharan in 1985, the firm now has 11 offices across the country, in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Allahabad, Gurgaon, Chandigarh, Pune, Kolkata, and Hyderabad.
The firm consults several Fortune 500 companies, Indian industry leaders & groups as well as small & medium enterprises on their taxation issues. They have also consulted Microsoft Technology Licensing and Polymer Technology.
For 3 consecutive years, they were ranked as No.1 taxation law firm by many legal platforms like Chambers & Partners Asia Pacific, Chambers & Partners Global, Legal 500, Asia Law, India Business Law Journal and Legal Era Awards.
The taxation team comprises of Mr. V. Lakshmikumaran, Mr. Parthasarthy R, and Mr. Vishwanatham T amongst other eminent names. The team renders advisory and litigation services as well as undertakes audit compliance in the matters related to direct and indirect tax, and international trade.
Let’s take a quick look at what kind of work LKS does in various areas of practice:
- Customs and Excise Duty: In custom and excise duty matters, complexities exist in several areas like customs and excise classification, valuation, exemptions, excise registration, import procedure compliance, foreign exchange management, agreements on free trade and regional trade practice, legal metrology and customs. The firm represents its clients before Tax Authorities, High Courts, The Supreme Court of India to resolve disputes on such matters.
- Goods and Service Tax: The firm provides services, training and compliance review in matters on GST. The firm practices in every aspect of GST from registration under the GST Act, determination of the place of supply valuation for mixed and composite supplies, re-designing the supply chain to contract review from the GST perspective, dispute resolution and representational service on GST implementation.
- Foreign Trade Policy and Procedure: The firm conducts routine compliance audit for companies that have an export compliance program designed to facilitate export transactions and save them from government scrutiny. The firm represents exporters who have difficulty in availing the benefits of export promotion schemes before tax authorities in India.
- Special Economic Zone: The firm provides its services to businesses willing to invest in tax free zones, by conducting a feasibility study for SEZ, developing business plans, preparing tax efficient financial models as well as project reports, filing application for approvals from Board of Approval, State Government, and earmarking of processing and non-processing areas.
- Corporate Taxation: The lawyers of the firm provide in-depth knowledge about the various amendments and provisions, related judgments to facilitate compliance.
- International taxation: The firm helps its foreign clients in fulfilling numerous obligations under the Indian tax laws and assessing the tax impact on the business model when there is a change in their working. They also assist them in realigning their functioning, managing their assets and risks from the transfer pricing perspective.
- Expatriate Taxation: The taxation team represents various importer and exporters before different authorities like RBI, MoF, MoI, DGCA, SIA, and CLB in India for matters relating to compliance as well as in matters relating to the fairness of the WTO trade regulations for the movement of goods and services across borders.
2. Economic Laws Practice
Set up in 2001, the firm started with 5 legal professionals and has now become a full-service law firm with over 200+ professionals comprising of lawyers, chartered accountants, cost accountants, economists and company secretaries. The firm provides its services in sectors like Litigation, Dispute Resolution & Arbitration, Tax, Banking & Finance, Defence & Aerospace, Trade & Customs, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. ELP has 6 offices pan India (Mumbai, New Delhi, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Chennai).
The Tax practice offers comprehensive qualitative services across both indirect and direct taxes (including transfer pricing) covering the entire spectrum of transactional, advisory and litigation. The combination of advisory and litigation services provides them with an edge over its competitors, especially in India where the proportion of tax litigation is significantly higher as compared to the other nations.
The firm provides services to its clients in matters related to Indirect Taxes which include Excise, Customs, Service Tax, Sales Tax/Value Added Tax (VAT), Entertainment Tax, Entry Tax, Goods and Services Tax (GST). Their services include:
- Tax structuring & optimisation that includes advice and assistance in relation to all kinds of issues
- Advisory, transaction structuring & support services including analysis of sourcing, procurement and distribution models and advice on the best practices to be incorporated in the supply chain from a GST efficiency perspective
- Due diligence & optimisation study for building tax efficiencies and determining potential tax saving opportunities
- Assistance for negotiating optimum package of incentives under the State Industrial Policy
- Comprehensive support for resolving tax issues related to cross-border transactions
- Advice and assistance on policy initiatives & representations before Central and State Government authorities
- Litigation services
ELP’s direct tax expertise covers all aspects of international and domestic tax matters including transfer pricing. The services include:
- Planning to improve tax efficiency/strategic documentation;
- Exchange policy and foreign investments;
- Investment and capital structuring;
- Structuring of Revenue and/or capital flows
- Domestic Tax Planning;
- Tax compliance & dispute assistance (litigation support);
- Levies from POEM and GAAR perspective
- Transfer pricing study and documentation;
- Inter-company transfer pricing policies for tangible goods, intangibles and services;
- Transfer pricing planning Services;
- Transfer Pricing Litigation
The firm has advised Bisleri International, in relation to indirect tax. Its key clients have been AirAsia, Flipkart Internet, Hiranandani Communities, Hiranandani Constructions, Inox Group, Otis Elevator, Reliance ADA Group, Great Eastern Shipping, Voltas.
ELP was the winner of ‘‘Law Firm of the Year” for Taxation in Indian Business Law Journal’s Indian Law Firm Awards, 2018. It was recognised as an “Outstanding Firm for Tax” by Asialaw Profiles 2018 & 2019 and “Top Tier Firm” for Tax; and WTO/International Trade by The Legal 500 Asia-Pacific 2019.
3. Nishith Desai Associates:
Established in 1989, NDA is a research and strategy international law firm that specializes in strategic legal, taxation and regulatory advice. The key practice areas of the firm are International Tax, International Tax Litigation, Competition Law, M&A, and Capital Markets. They practice in many industries like Oil and Gas, Media and Entertainment, Education, Food and Beverages amongst others.
The firm has offices in Mumbai, Singapore, New Delhi, USA (Silicon Valley) and Bangalore. Mr. Nishith Desai, founder and tax lawyer has been ranked 28 in a global list of top 50 “Gold List” by Tax Business, a UK based tax journal.
The International Tax team provides its clients with an innovative and unique approach for tax structuring. With extensive experience in these areas, the team of professionals provides creative and strategic advisory to its clients in matters of tax planning and structuring especially in cross border transactions.
Through their International Tax and Litigation practice, the firm assists its clients by representing them before tax authorities, High Court and Supreme Court, Dispute Resolution authorities, identifying and providing clients with strategic guidance against any tax controversies they might run into.
The firm has represented Marriott International, Morgan Stanley, Vodafone International Abacus and many others in the past. The firm has represented a leading Japanese automobile company in providing real estate structuring solutions along with the consequent tax treatment of such structuring under tax laws. 4. Khaitan & Co.:
Khaitan & Co. is one of the oldest and largest law firms in India. The firm was founded by Mr. Lakshmi Prasad Khaitan and his brothers in 1911. it is a full service firm which provides its domestic as well as international clients with legal solutions in different types of legal matters. The key areas of practice are M&A, Taxation, Banking and Finance, Dispute Resolution etc. The firm practices in both direct and indirect taxation.
The firm actively advises clients on all tax related aspects related to corporate, finance and tax advisory, tax representation and tax litigation services at various forums. It helps foreign companies and investors in obtaining advance Rulings. The firm provides taxation advice on public and private mergers and acquisitions, fund formation, tax efficient capitalization of subsidiaries, corporate taxation.
The firm provides a wide spectrum of indirect taxation services to its clients. The firm provides advisory as well as litigation services to its clients in matters related to GST, Custom duty, excise duty, service tax, and VAT and entry tax laws. The advisory services range from complex tax laws interpretation, risk mitigation, restructuring for tax efficient business transactions to litigation support. The firm also strategizes for potential tax matters that may arise during the inception of a business model.
The firm provides advisory services to investors in their matters of investment in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and tax holiday regions, WTO trade regulations like import and export control, anti-profiteering norms, anti-dumping and safeguard duty, entertainment tax, cosmetic and drugs regulation legal metrology amongst others. The firm represents its domestic as well as international clients before tax authorities, government authorities and policymakers.
Khaitan and Co. have advised various major companies like HDFC Limited, Life Insurance Corporation of India, Go Airlines India Limited, Godrej Consumer Products Limited, Vedanta Limited, Mahindra and Mahindra Group on matters related to Indirect Taxation.
The firm has been recognised as “Firm of the Year” by Asian Legal Business South East Asia Law Awards 2019. It is also recognised by many legal platforms like IDEX Legal Awards, India Business Law Journal Awards etc. for their work.
5. BMR Legal Advocates:
Founded in 2010, this boutique law firm currently has 15 professionals working with them. Most professionals are dual qualified experts in policy, advocacy & disputes skills, blending knowledge of UK, EU & US tax laws. The firm’s managing partner Mukesh Butani is a specialist in tax litigation, dispute resolution and arbitration, corporate and advisory practices.
The firm specialises in Corporate International Tax, Transfer Pricing, GST, Customs & Trade, with expertise in policy, disputes and transaction advisory. They advise and support clients on Tax Litigation, Alternate Dispute Resolution (including APA, MAP and Advance Ruling) and acts as an expert witness on treaty and transfer pricing law. The firm also advises its clients on matters of audit & defence, investigations, advocacy, advice on exchange controls, foreign direct investment.
The firm has represented Spencer Stuart International in a dispute over the taxability of executive search fees and reimbursement of expenses as a fee for technical services under Article 12(5) of India Netherlands Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal.
They have also Represented CLSA India in the controversy over the method to determine the arm’s length price of the international transaction before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal.
BMR Legal’s clients include General Motors India, Goldman Sachs Services, H&M Hennes & Mauritz India, Marvell India.
The firm received “Outstanding Tax Firm” by Asialaw Profiles, and “Tier 1 Tax Firm” by Legal 500 for 2017 & 2018. It was also recognised as Band 1 by Chambers & Partners.
6. AZB and Partners:
Founded in 2004, AZB and Partners has secured a place as a top-tier law firm for its taxation expertise. It is an all-service firm with partners working in areas like General corporate, M&A, Intellectual Property Law, inter alia, others. The firm was founded by Zia Moody along with Bahram Vakil and Ajay Bahl. The firm currently has 6 offices all over the country with 2 each in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. Mr. Ajay Bahl has been ranked as the top Indian Tax Advisor by several journals all over the world.
The firm renders advisory and litigation services that include corporate tax planning as well as transactional tax services to multiple industry segments. The firm provides service to its clients in matters related to Direct and Indirect Tax, Goods and Service Tax(GST), Excise duty, Stamp duty, Income Tax, Wealth Tax.
The firm has a clientele which includes Fortune 500 companies, MNCs and PE firms. Over the years the firm has received prestigious legal awards from Chambers Asia-Pacific, IFLR100, Asialaw Profiles, India Business Law Journal and many other platforms for their work in the field of Taxation Law and Corporate Law.
- Family arrangements that include the formation of trusts, Succession Planning
- Advisory services on The Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015
- It also advices different companies to set up their corporate business and offices in India by guiding them about the domestic law followed by the country.
- It also helps the companies to avoid double taxation and comply with other laws
- International taxation, expatriate taxation, dispute resolution, tax treaties and transfer pricing
- Taxation advice on mergers, acquisitions, demergers disinvestments etc.
- Impact of tax costs and input tax credit on proposed business structures
- Tax litigation, that includes representation of the client before tax authorities
- Identifying tax risks and tax savings for the existing business practices
- Matters related to Custom and excise duty and foreign policies
- Analyzing the GST regime, which includes reviewing the existing contracts from the GST perspective
6. Vaish Associates:
Vaish Associates, one of the Tier-1 tax law firms in India, was founded in 1971 by Mr. O.P Vaish. The firm provides advisory, taxation, legal and regulatory solutions to its clients. The firm at present has 12 partners along with 100 associates in offices located in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. The key practice areas of the company include Direct and Indirect taxation, Intellectual Property, Banking, Cyber Laws, Project Financing, Litigation (criminal, civil, corporate).
The firm has won the award for the Indian Law Firm Award for Taxation by India Business Law Journal for the past 3 years consecutively along with Outstanding firm in Taxation by Asialaw.
- Representing the clients before tax authorities in India
- Strategic Tax Planning
- Compliance and Regulatory
- Transfer Pricing- preparation of pricing reports by compilation of data to represent before the transfer pricing authorities in India
- Advisory and consulting services for both domestic and international issues
The Direct Tax team is widely recognised for their cost effective and efficient solutions to the clients when dealing with constantly changing domestic and international tax regimes. The team has provided its services to various tax administrators and businesses.
The tax firm provides advisory and consultancy services in the areas of GST, Custom and Service Tax, Central Sales Tax, Service Tax. The firm provides its services in various areas like Banking, Finance, Leasing, Infrastructure, Media and Entertainment, Advertising, Retail Trade and many more. The firm helps its clients in filing returns and facilitation of audit, refunds under Foreign Trade Policy Scheme etc.
8. Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas:
CAM is presently one of the largest full-service law firms in India. It was founded in 2015 continuing the long legacy of Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A. Shroff & Co. The firm has over 750 lawyers, which includes 130 partners. The firm has its business centers in Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai and Ahmedabad. The firm functions under the guidance of Mr. Cyril Suresh Shroff( Managing Partner) and Mrs. Vandana Shroff (Partner).
The firm’s taxation department is headed by S.R Patnaik and Daksha Baxi as the head of International Taxation. The firm’s tax practice group offers taxation advice in the following matters:
- Tax structuring
- Tax advice in transaction
- General tax advisory
- Client representation in tax disputes
The taxation team advises the foreign investors on their investment strategies in India along with the domestic investors looking for outbound investment. The firm has also advised in prominent M&As in India.
The firm also provides advisory and dispute resolution services to its clients on issues related to business, corporate and indirect taxation. The services include:
- Tax treaty interpretation
- Transfer pricing and withholding tax
- International taxation
- Advice on value added tax, service tax, custom and excise duty
The firm also represents its clients in front of the various tax authorities, tribunals and courts and helps them in their proceedings. The taxation group provides a holistic approach to its clients in matters related to direct and indirect tax.
The firm frequently represents organisations like FICCI, CII, Vodafone Nestle, General Electric, Havells, Vale Australia, BHEL and ONGC etc. The firm was awarded “Law Firm of the Year, 2019” by Asialaw Regional Awards, The Asian-Mena Counsel-In-House Community, IBLJ Indian Law Firm Awards. The firm is widely recognised for its market knowledge in the profession.
9. L&L Partners Law Offices:
Founded in 1990, L&L Partners is all service Indian law firm with its offices in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. Mr. Rajiv K. Luthra, founder and managing director runs the practice along with Mr. Mohit Saraf. The firm has over 70 partners. They were awarded Law Firm of the Year – India by UK India Awards 2017 and National Law Firm of the Year – India by IFLR Asia Awards 2016, 2015, 2011 & 2010.
The tax group of the firm comprises of Mr. Gunjan Mishra, Mr. JP Singh, Mr. Lokesh Shah, Mr. Sumit Mangal and Mr. Vikas Srivastava. The team provides advice to clients operating in various industries like aviation, media and entertainment, infrastructure, real estate etc.
The firm provides practical, innovative & cost-effective advice. Enormous amounts of knowledge, experience & commitment, successfully help close/ resolve complex & high value transactions & disputes, with practical & creative legal solutions. The firm has an outstanding clientele which includes Sony, DLF Group, Swarovski, Volkswagen, Yahoo Inc.
10. Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co.:
Founded in 2015, the firm is headed by Mr. Shardul S. Shroff as the executive chairman of the firm along with Pallavi Shroff as managing partner. The firm at present has 110 partners with them along with a long list of the best professionals in the field. The firm is a full service firm with key practice areas in Banking & Finance, Competition Law, Insolvency and Bankruptcy, Taxation, Dispute Resolution IP, Venture Capital etc. The firm has a total of 7 offices pan India, in New Delhi, Gurgaon, Mumbai Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata.
The firm provides a wide range of direct and indirect services (including customs duty, central excise, service tax value added tax, central sales tax, state excise duty etc)ranging from tax planning, advisory, implementation, documentation, representation and litigation support. They render taxation advice for international transactions, in addition to being involved in advising and structuring major transactions in India.
Among many notable awards, ‘Country Firm of the Year, India’ for 2017-2019 by Who’s Who Legal, ‘India Law Firm of the Year’ at the Asian Legal Business (ALB) India Law Awards 2019, ‘Law Firm of the Year, 2019’ by India Business Law Journal, ‘Most Innovative National Law Firm of the Year’ at the annual IFLR Asia-Pacific Awards 2019, one of the ‘Best Overall Law Firms’ by India Business Law Journal, 2010-19 are few of the prestigious ones.
11. Advaita Legal:
Advaita Legal established in 2013, predominantly as a tax law firm that over the past 6 years has become a full service law firm with practice areas such as Tax, corporate & M&A projects baking and finance, labour laws, International trade (WTO trade regulations), real estate & construction and Intellectual Property Right. The professionals in the company have an aggregate experience of over 100 years. The firm has 2 partners and 40 lawyers in their offices in New Delhi and Mumbai.
The taxation group of the firm provides revolutionary tax advice to their clients by making use of their courtroom experience to resolve high stake tax controversies. The tax firm provides advisory as well as litigation services in matters relating to corporate tax, transfer pricing, indirect taxes like customs and excise duty, GST, service tax.
The Firm represented Vedanta Limited for challenging the vires of the Circular issued by the Orissa State Sales Tax authorities denying assesses the right to procure High Speed Diesel at a concessional rate against Form C is challenged.
The firm successfully assisted and represented CUB Pty Ltd (formerly Fosters India Private Limited) before the Delhi High Court in Writ Petition challenging the ruling of Authority for Advance Ruling against taxation of assignment of trademark and other IPR rights outside India. The firm was part of a Landmark Ruling on Transfer Pricing while representing its client Data Core (India) Pvt. Ltd.
Trilegal was founded in 2000, the firm has over 40 partners and 300 lawyers. A full service firm has 4 offices across the country, in New Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai and Gurgaon. The firm works in 14 domains including Asset Management and Funds, Banking & Finance Disputes, Taxation, Real Estate, Energy and Infrastructure, International Capital markets and many more.
The taxation team of the firm has strong command over their advisory services on matters relating to taxation i.e. direct and indirect taxation. The team advises its clients on issues regarding the structuring of foreign investments and joint ventures, tax implications on the business models due to a change in their processes, import and export of goods and services in India. The team also works closely with the state and central government on strategies regarding the state and central tax policy.
The firm has assisted Proterra Investment Partners in its third and biggest investment. The firm also analysed whether hydroponics business could qualify for tax benefits on account of classification as agriculture and the tax benefits available to the agriculture sector under the domestic tax laws.
The key clients are Bechtel India, Max Life Insurance Company, Naspers Ventures, Pitney Bowes Group, Samsung Electronics, SC Lowy Financial.
We hope that the list shall help you in getting a better understanding of the taxation law scenario within the Indian Law firms.
If you are still confused about how to go ahead with a career in taxation laws, download our free course material on Corporate Tax or give us a call for a free career counselling session.
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