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Q&A with returned Tax Partner Shaun Cartoon

Taxation
Shaun Cartoon Article
Tax Partner Shaun Cartoon began his career in the firm's tax practice before travelling and working abroad. We spoke with Shaun following his recent return to the firm and what it's like to be back.

Since leaving Arnold Bloch Leibler almost 10 years ago to move overseas, you’ve worked in various legal roles in London and back in Australia. In what ways would you say your early training and experience at ABL equipped you for the roles you’ve had since?

The ABL tax team was a brilliant place to start my career.  I always felt supported by the tax partners, not only in my technical development as a tax lawyer, but also in my development of client relationships from a very early stage. This was empowering and gave me a lot of confidence as I progressed further in my career. Moving to London without a job was risky. I spent the first three months pulling pints and washing glasses at a pub. Thankfully, I landed a job with Freshfields, one of London’s best law firms. While I had to pick up a new legal and tax system, I felt I could draw on the same thought processes and skills I’d acquired at ABL to succeed.

What are some of your observations upon returning to ABL?

On my first day back at ABL, after almost 10 years, one of our long-serving receptionists, Daphne, simply looked up and without hesitating said “I thought you were only going out for a coffee”. Daphne, and many other ABL support staff, lawyers and partners are still here! This is very unique for a law firm, and it speaks volumes for ABL’s culture. I thrived on it when I worked here. I missed it while I was away, and now that I am back, I can see that it remains as strong and true as ever.  In my role as a partner of the firm, I am looking forward to making my own unique contribution to the culture and continued success of the firm.

We have a history of successfully handling high value ‘bet the farm’ tax audits and disputes. I will be an active presence in that space, with a particular focus on large corporates and multinational cross-border disputes.

Now that you’re back in ABL’s esteemed tax practice, you’re bringing with you the experience you’ve accumulated in those other roles. How would you describe that extra dimension you bring to the practice now?

Working at other top law firms has given me a large and diverse network of clients, colleagues and experiences, having worked on many high profile and high value transactions and tax disputes. The tax profession is a very small and collegiate community, and I have been very fortunate to learn from some of the best tax lawyers in the country. The opportunity to have experienced different cultures at other firms has also helped me to distil the necessary ingredients for a successful, cohesive and high performing team.

What’s the big growth area in tax that you intend to focus on in the coming months/years?

Large audits and tax disputes.  During COVID, we have seen the ATO slow the pace of its audit activities.  However, these matters haven’t gone away and we expect to see an engaged ATO and a wave of new audit activity next year, where our independence, expertise and trusted counsel will continue to be sought. At ABL we have a history of successfully handling high value ‘bet the farm’ tax audits and disputes. I will be an active presence in that space – with a particular focus on large corporates and multinational cross-border disputes. Our fierce independence as a law firm, and low partner to lawyer ratios makes us ideally placed to run these large disputes efficiently and effectively for our clients. Our strong relationships with the ATO – at all levels - also helps.

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