Jeroen Janssen enjoys an “excellent reputation” and is considered “one of the best in the country” thanks to his “strong expertise in international tax”.
Jeroen Janssen is one of the few tax lawyers who has been admitted to the Dutch Bar. He focuses strongly on the Brazilian, Mexican, Canadian and Israeli markets, assisting corporate clients, financial institutions, energy clients, and high-net-worth individuals. He heads Loyens & Loeff’s Latin America region team. Peers and clients consider him “an excellent practitioner who is highly active in cross-border transactions with a creative approach”. Jeroen is a regular speaker at international conferences and is the author of several publications on (international) tax matters.
Describe your career to date.
I started in 1994 at the predecessor of Loyens & Loeff. First in the corporate practice and later focusing more and more on taxes. In my early years I worked for one year in New York at a US law firm and three years in the London office of Loyens & Loeff. After my return from London I started as a partner at the international tax practice in Amsterdam. My practice focuses on energy clients and on specific regions such as Israel, Latin America, and Canada.
How have client demands and priorities changed since you first began practising?
When I started as a lawyer in 1994 there was no email. The facsimile was the most advanced communication device. Each morning started at a big table reading all the letters and facsimiles that were sent to clients the day before. If a client asked a question he expected an answer to his questions within two weeks. The demanded response time has clearly changed. Nowadays I often receive over 200 emails per day, and it would not be appreciated if we would wait for two weeks before answering them. Another change I have noticed during this covid-19 crisis is that working from home goes extremely smoothly thanks to all the new technology. This would have been impossible in 1994.
How has increased scrutiny on compliance in recent years impacted the way in which tax structuring is handled?
It is not so much the scrutiny on compliance that impacted international investment structures. Over the past years my advice on the cross-border investments is more affected by transfer pricing developments, and all kinds of anti-abuse provisions that scrutinise non-genuine elements in investment structures.
What do you find most challenging about handling cross-border transactions?
The basic rule is and always was in my view that investment structures should be flexible in the sense that the structures can be amended without triggering tax hits. It becomes more and more challenging with international tax developments to structure cross-border investments based on this rule. This also means that investment structures are less of a commodity then 10 years ago. There is no one size fits all anymore. Investment structures must be more and more tailored to each client. The structure must be more aligned with the business of the client to meet the required functionality at each level of the investment structure.
What are the benefits and the challenges of practising in an area of law that is constantly changing, and is highly international?
The benefit of a constantly changing environment is that your work remains intellectually challenging, even after all these years. But it also means that you have to invest a lot of time in all the new developments and all the changes not only in the Netherlands, but also within the EU, in tax treaties and the regions I focus on.
What short and long-term impacts do you see covid-19 having on international taxation?
This year there will be a lot of focus on the place of the management and control of companies. In the long-term – if covid-19 will result in a slowdown of international economies – I expect that tax authorities in some countries will become more business friendly, whilst other countries will try to further increase taxes to cover for their deficits (depending on the political climate). I expect that this will change the international business environment creating new challenges and opportunities.
How do you see your practice developing over the next five years?
Tax authorities collect a lot of information under the new disclosure and reporting rules. If tax authorities know more and can compare more, I expect tax audits to increase. These audits will have a stronger emphasis on transfer pricing and the functionality at each level of an investment structure. Another development is the increase of open norms in new anti-abuse rules. These rules hamper the legal certainty and create risks for clients. This will result in a demand for more straight-forward structures and will require judgements of advisers to mitigate these tax risks.
What is the most memorable case you have worked on?
No specific case comes to mind, but the cases I worked on at the beginning of my career made the biggest impression on me. One reason for that is that things were still new to me, but also the administrative burden was less. Nowadays every new case starts with a lot of compliance work to accept the client, checks on disclosure rules, followed by regular updates on the invoicing. At the beginning of my career you accepted the client when you liked the case and sent the invoice at the end often without any real justification or explanation on the amount of the invoice.
What advice would you give to younger lawyers looking to specialise in tax law?
Think twice. I was warned at the beginning of my career when I had to choose between becoming a corporate lawyer or a tax lawyer. My tutor told me that tax law is definitely the worst and most boring job of the two, unless you are one of the best. If you are one of the best tax lawyers your work will be enormously challenging and diverse. In other words, you have to be prepared to invest a lot of time and put a lot of dedication into your work each day trying to become one of the best. This effort you can only make if you really enjoy it.