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Tax Barrister

Tax Advice

Mary Ashley is a tax barrister practising at Old Square Tax Chambers, a leading set of UK tax barristers. Mary is licensed by the Bar Standards Board to accept public access and as such is regularly instructed by individuals directly. Prior to joining the Bar, Mary graduated with a first class degree from Keble College, Oxford University in 2010. She then completed the BCL specialising in Taxation at Oxford University graduating with Distinction in 2012.

Mary was called to the Bar in 2014 and began her tax practice at the tax bar in 2015 after completing pupillage.

Mary has a detailed knowledge in both revenue law with a focus on private client and chancery law with a focus on wills and trusts law. She undertakes both tax litigation and advisory work on behalf of taxpayers. Further she is able to draft documents where necessary to implement any suggested steps.

Mary regularly assists clients with UK tax matters and can be your first port of call when tax disputes arise with the tax authorities. Mary seeks to provide practical advice and be user friendly for all clients and as such is happy to assist clients in whichever way is most convenient for them whether that be through written work or through advice via conference or both.

In addition to advising, Mary regularly writes articles for various tax publications. She was previously the editor of James Kessler’s Taxation of Charities and the Moderator for James Kessler’s online edition of Taxation of Non-Residents and Foreign Domiciliaries.

Core areas

Mary has always made an effort to diversify her practice in order to be able to provide a full service in relation to an individual’s private client matters. This means that she has a particular expertise and regularly advises on areas relevant to private clients.

Tax law

Tax law can be complicated and Mary seeks to take the difficult tax problems that can face taxpayers and make them simple for them to understand.

Whilst it may appear from the below that Mary specialises in many different areas, in order to have a successful tax practice as a tax barrister especially in private client work, it is necessary to understand how the various taxes interact for both indirect taxes and direct tax purposes.

Inheritance Tax: 

As one of the key direct taxes that private clients will be concerned about, Mary has built a strong practice advising on all areas of inheritance tax. More recently this has included advising on the availability of the Residence Nil Rate Band, how to draft inheritance tax efficient wills, drafting deeds of variation, what to do with nil rate band discretionary trusts, how to deal with issues in relation to the gifts with reservation provisions, and planning for reliefs including Business Property Relief and Agricultural Property Relief.

Foreign Domiciliaries / Non-residents

Mary often advises high-net worth individuals who are seeking general advice on their domicile and the tax consequences that follow therefrom. This requires advising on their current domicile status and what steps can be taken to strengthen that position. She further has particular experience advising on an individual’s deemed domicile and steps that can be taken to avoid becoming either actually or deemed domiciled in the UK.

Inherent in advising individuals with a foreign domicile are the planning opportunities associated and as such Mary regularly advises on opportunities in relation to excluded property trusts, double tax treaties and claiming the remittance basis.

Mary further regularly advises on issues that arise in relation to an individual’s UK tax residence including the changes that have come in as a result of Covid-19.

Capital gains tax and income tax: 

To be able to advise private clients properly, it is necessary to understand all of the taxes and how they interact. As a result, Mary regularly advises clients on their capital gains tax and income tax position in relation to their domicile and residence. This involves consideration of the various reliefs available including hold-over relief, entrepreneurs’ relief, and principal private residence relief.

Further she regularly has to consider the capital gains tax consequences of death in circumstances where property was settled prior to the death of the individual.

So far as income tax is concerned, Mary regularly advises on the tax consequences associated with the chargeable event gains legislation, the transactions in land legislation, and various employment tax issues that can arise including the loan charge and whether an individual will find themselves within the various anti-avoidance provisions introduced by HMRC including but not limited to the disguised remuneration rules and IR 35.


More recently in light of all of the changes that have occurred recently and are regularly being proposed, Mary has taken a keen interest in the taxation of pensions and options that individuals have for taking their pensions in the most tax efficient way available to them. Mary has recently advised on various issues that can arise for UK resident individuals with foreign resident pensions and foreign resident individuals with UK based pensions.

Corporation Tax

Intrinsic in advising private clients who own businesses is determining whether they are best served through operating their business through a partnership or a company from a UK tax perspective. As a result Mary regularly advises on corporation tax matters including corporate residence, the loan relationship rules, and efficient structuring.

Charity Taxation: 

As a previous editor of the Taxation of Charities with James Kessler, Mary has found herself regularly dealing with various aspects of charities taxation. This has included advising charities on ensuring they qualify for Gift Aid Relief, avoiding falling foul of the charitable expenditure rules when transferring charitable funds to charities overseas, ensuring independence of charities where they have sister charities in other countries, and how to deal with VAT issues which have arisen.

Stamp Duty Land Tax: 

Mary regularly advises on stamp duty land tax issues. This can involve advising at the point of purchase on whether various reliefs (including multiple dwellings relief, partnership relief, charities relief, or sub-sale relief) are available, what the rate of SDLT may be based on whether the 3% surcharge would apply or if the land is treated as residential or non-residential, or whether there are other factors which may affected the chargeable consideration, including whether transactions would be treated as linked or if any specific provisions apply (including, for example partitioning land).

Mary is also able to assist in other transactions which may give rise to an SDLT difficulty including, for example, de-enveloping or consequences that may lead to SDLT questions, including transferring properties on death for consideration.

Interaction with tax authorities: 

In advising clients on the above, Mary has regularly assisted clients in interacting with HMRC. This can be through assisting in drafting correspondence with HMRC, through advising on the merits of a dispute with HMRC or through drafting non-statutory clearance applications.

In the event that you find yourself with a letter from HMRC that you may not understand including, for example, a discovery assessment, a schedule 36 notice, or a penalties notice, do contact Mary before responding as often things may not be as scary as they first appear and often things can be resolved more efficiently if a barrister is involved as early as possible.

Mary has also undertaken tax litigation and chancery litigation though her goal is to resolve issues before they get as far as either the first tier tribunal or high court.

Chancery / Trusts:

In advising on the tax consequences, it is often necessary to cross over into many other different practice areas, including but not limited to trusts law, chancery law, property law or contract law. whether it is necessary to draft documents to ensure proper implementation of the structure or whether the current structure in place is appropriate for the goals that the taxpayer want to achieve. This may include an application to the court to vary a trust or other resolutions to be made by trustees to achieve the desired aims. Mary therefore has significant experience in undertaking these.

What does a tax barrister offer?

A tax barrister can be used not only at the point of a dispute but also as a specialist in tax law to provide forward advice.

What are the advantages of a direct access barrister?

The key advantage to using a direct access barrister (as opposed to having to instruct a barrister through a solicitor) is the potential for a costs savings as only one professional will be involved as opposed to two. Not all tax issues are suitable to be resolved through direct access, but Mary will be able to advise whether a solicitor would provide assistance. Usually those more complex tax issues with significant paperwork will require a solicitor, but often simple queries associated with capital gains tax, inheritance tax or stamp duty land tax can be resolved through instructing a barrister directly.


Mary regularly contributes articles to various journals. She also has a blog which can be accessed from this page where she provides tax updates which she finds interesting.

Speaking Engagements

Mary regularly gives talks for her chambers on a variety of topics. In addition, she has provided webinars for Lexis Nexis. Mary enjoys lecturing law firms or accountancy firms individually on current topics or on a specific area that may be of interest. Please contact her clerks if you would like a roundtable discussion or a lunch & learn session.

Outside of Tax

Outside of tax Mary enjoys spending her time hiking with her kids, listening to country music and watching American Football. She is currently training for a 25km race called “Conquer the Rock”.

Who can I contact?

To instruct Mary, please contact her clerking team at Old Square Tax Chambers.

What is the Bar Standards Board?

The Bar Standards Board is the official regulator of practising barristers. Mary, therefore, is regulated by the Bar Standards Board. For more information see: The Bar Standards Board.


Any information provided on this website is for informational / discussion purposes only. It is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.