“Tax Silk of the Year” for both 2018 and 2019 (Legal 500 UK 2018 and Chambers UK Bar Awards 2019), shortlisted as Tax Silk of the Year 2020 by Legal 500 and ranked as a ‘Star Individual’ in 2020 – 2022 by Chambers UK. Melanie Hall QC has been described as a “tough opponent for anyone at the Bar, whatever their seniority”, “a force to be reckoned with for the most sophisticated of VAT disputes” a “creative and independent thinker“, a “razor sharp advocate“, ”very user-friendly”. “She just litigates properly”, “one of the most able indirect tax practitioners at the Bar”, “Impeccably well prepared, fiercely clever and down to earth. She demonstrates absolute command of the subject matter and is an unflappable advocate.” Her “tenacious court room style place her in high demand” though she is also described as “polished and charming“ and “an excellent silk who has the ear of the judge”. Melanie Hall has been an acknowledged leader in the field of VAT for decades, having appeared in many of the iconic cases which have built the foundations of the tax such as Abbey National, Kretztechnik, EC v Ireland, The Wellcome Foundation, Midland Bank, Weald Leasing, EDS, Church Schools Foundation, Redrow, Dr Beynon, ICAEW, Mobilx and Sub-One to name a few. Melanie is instructed by both HMRC and the private sector in high profile and complex cases. This not only deepens her understanding and experience of the tax but ensures that any legal opinion she expresses will be respected by the other side. There are very few areas of VAT upon which she has not advised.
In addition to VAT, Melanie continues to take a lead role in shaping the response to sector-wide challenges concerning landfill tax and the aggregates levy which have been litigated in the domestic and Europeans courts during the past decade.
Melanie is a member of the editorial board for The Tax Journal, a Trustee of Somerset House and co-founded the charity The Circle with Annie Lennox to support disempowered women and girls. She is an Honorary Fellow of Law at Durham University.
Melanie’s cases have shaped the structure and boundaries of VAT and other indirect taxes. For example she has defended the legality of the very existence of VAT on hot takeaway food; the Aggregates Levy; the UK’s VAT Grouping legislation and the Landfill Tax. Over the years she has appeared in other key cases such as Mobilx, Southern Primary and the Mirror Group before the Court of Appeal and in cases such as Redrow, Eastbourne Radio Cars and Taxis and Dr Beynon before what is now the Supreme Court. She is well versed in the VAT regime of the Isle of Man and its relationship with the EU, particularly with regard to the aviation sector. She is also a well known and respected advocate in Luxembourg where she has argued cases before the European Court of Justice such as EC v UK on VAT Grouping, TNT, The Wellcome Foundation, Midland Bank, Abbey National, and Kretztechnik. There are very few areas of VAT upon which she has not advised.
Melanie represents HMRC in its most high profile and complex cases. She is also frequently engaged by taxpayers, representing a broad range of household name clients which include local authorities, hoteliers, universities and charities (large and small), high street retailers, publishers, banks and other financial institutions, telecommunications providers, pharmaceutical companies, premier league football clubs, gambling operators, property developers, pension funds, housing associations and house builders.
What the directories say
Tax: Indirect Tax (ranked as a Star Individual): “Very tenacious – a robust and tough opponent.” “She is an outstanding barrister.” – Chambers UK, 2022
Leading silk in Tax: corporate and VAT: “A true leader in her field. She has an impressive presence, a meticulous approach, is highly technical and is very pragmatic to work with.” – Legal 500, 2022
Tax: Indirect Tax (ranked as a Star Individual): “Melanie is excellent. She has huge VAT experience, is extremely sharp-witted and offers great strategic insight.” “She is a real details person who is very thorough and upfront.” – Chambers UK, 2021
Leading silk in Tax: corporate and VAT: ‘‘She is an excellent silk and has the ear of the judge.’’ – Legal 500, 2021
Tax: Indirect Tax: “She is a class act who has an in-depth understanding of the EU law dimensions of tax. She combines this with a razor-sharp approach to the detail of the evidence and is also a formidable cross-examiner.” “Melanie is highly forensic in her approach and has the ability to deal with huge amounts of facts in a case. She communicates clearly and inspires confidence in the client.” – Chambers UK, 2020
Leading silk in Tax: corporate and VAT: ‘‘She has outstanding expertise in VAT.’’ – Legal 500, 2020
“Well-known silk in the field who excels in VAT matters, EU law and complex corporate tax litigation” – Corporate Tax, Who’s Who Legal UK Bar 2019
Tax: Indirect Tax: “Impeccably well prepared, fiercely clever and down to earth. She demonstrates absolute command of the subject matter and is an unflappable advocate.” – Chambers UK, 2019
Leading silk in Tax: corporate and VAT: ‘‘Excellent for indirect tax work.’’ – Legal 500, 2018
Tax: Indirect Tax: “A superb barrister who is both clear and knowledgeable.” – Chambers UK, 2018
Leading silk in Tax: corporate and VAT: ‘‘Consummate in VAT and broadly one of the most able indirect tax practitioners at the Bar.’’– Legal 500, 2017
Tax: Indirect Tax: “She is very user-friendly.” “She just litigates properly.”– Chambers UK, 2017
Leading Silk in Tax VAT Law: “To be found in complex VAT and landfill tax cases.” – Legal 500, 2016
Tax: Indirect Tax: A “very talented and very thoughtful” advocate who, according to market commentators, “thinks through all the various options for clients.” “A fearsome opponent in court.” “Very user-friendly and has a good depth of knowledge.” – Chambers UK, 2016
Leading Silk in Tax VAT Law: “Very good at explaining complex legal issues clearly and concisely.” – Legal 500, 2015
Tax: Indirect Tax: “She is a real VAT specialist who has a lot of experience on both sides of disputes (HMRC and taxpayer). A creative and independent thinker who, at the same time, is receptive and sympathetic to the views of those instructing her.” – Chambers UK, 2015
‘Excellent attention to detail and clarity of thought.’ Melanie Hall QC is ranked as a leading Silk in Tax: Corporate and VAT Law – Legal 500, 2014
Under Tax: Indirect Tax: “A force to be reckoned with for the most sophisticated of VAT disputes, she has enjoyed success on behalf of clients ranging from major organisations to HMRC. ‘Melanie is hugely well prepared, very thorough and has a pleasingly direct client manner.’” Chambers UK 2014
“Clients value highly Melanie Hall QC’s ‘ability to apply deep insight, and respond immediately to changing circumstances with agility and sagacity’.” Recommended as a leading silk under Tax: Corporate & VAT. Legal 500 2013
Recommended as a leading Silk under EU and Competition Law. Legal 500 2013
“A razor sharp advocate” The Lawyer, 2013
“The “very tenacious” Melanie Hall QC is a tough opponent for anyone at the Bar, whatever their seniority. Her knowledge of VAT and customs duties is such that she has been engaged in some of the most important indirect tax cases of recent years. Recently, she acted in British Aggregates Association v European Commission, a case concerning the legality of the Aggregates Levy that went on appeal to the ECJ.” Chambers UK, 2013
Under EU and Competition Law Melanie Hall QC is described as ‘informative, helpful and determined.’ – Legal 500, 2012
Under Tax: Corporate and VAT Law: “Melanie Hall QC has the ‘drive and determination that clients seek’.” – Legal 500, 2012
Melanie Hall QC is regarded as “calm, collected and analytically spot-on” by commentators. Her recent work has included the major Calltel, Mobilx and Blue Sphere VAT case in the Court of Appeal. – Chambers UK, 2012
Tax: Corporate and VAT states that Melanie Hall QC “is ‘very thorough and always well prepared’, and appeared in Calltel, Mobilx & Blue Sphere.” Legal 500, 2011
Recommended in Tax: Indirect Tax in Chambers UK, 2011 “the “polished and charming” Melanie Hall QC, handles VAT and customs duties matters, often appearing in the House of Lords and the ECJ. Sources say that she “always presents compelling arguments before the most demanding of tribunals.”
Melanie is a “go to” QC for the financial services sector. She is particularly familiar with current issues around VAT Grouping and place of supply. She has recently advised on Bitcoin and other crypto currencies and is often instructed by the insurance and other sectors to advise on potential new products.
Having won SAE Ltd v HMRC in the Supreme Court in relation to the education exemption, she continues to be very active in this area.
The property sector, of which the recent Court of Appeal case of Forty Seven Park Street is an example is very familiar to Melanie.
Similarly, the charities sector, having been instructed in the Wellcome Foundation case welcomes Melanie’s expertise and experience.
The concept of an “economic activity” is one which raises its head in Melanie’s practice with remarkable frequency. A decision is awaited in Magherafelt District Council (a test case on whether Northern Ireland Councils are engaged in an economic activity when providing sports and leisure services) which will seek to grapple with the concept. Related issues such as employment/self-employment, levels of consideration and the significance of public funding are examples of issues on which Melanie is well placed to advise.
Similarly the CPP principle continues to be a familiar theme in her practice, spanning all sectors from retail to transport and from charities to health care.
Having been instructed in Midland Bank, Kretztehcnik and similar cases, Melanie continues to advise on the scope of the right to an input tax deduction as she has for many years.
Telecommunications expertise has long been a part of Melanie’s repertoire having been instructed in Vodafone litigation for European and domestic cases.
In recent years, Melanie has been instructed in many cases involving the welfare and health care exemptions – an evolving and complex area of VAT law.
One of the most recent cases on the relationship between judicial review and statutory appeals was successfully fought by Melanie – Veolia and Viridor v HMRC in which she called upon her many years of experience advising and litigating on that core issue.
Cases such as Weald Leasing have mean that Melanie is well placed to advise on whether a proposed series of transactions is likely to be classified as an abusive practice – an issue which has arisen in too many sectors to list here.
Sub-One and other cases concerning the zero-rate such as Blom-Cooper places Melanie in a strong position to be able to navigate her way around the relevant provisions, on which she advises on a regular basis.
Melanie is extremely familiar with the procedures in the Tax Tribunals, Adminitrative Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and European Court, having appeared before all of them throughout her career.
In addition to VAT, Melanie has greater court experience than any other QC in litigating issues arising out of the Landfill Tax. The same is true of the Aggregates Levy. Each tax has been subject to sector-wide challenges in recent years.