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2023-06-04 02:19:21

Law in Latvia: a deepening in tax law

By Anatol Steven. 02.12.2011

BDO Zelmenis&Liberte was created in 2007 when Janis Zelmenis and Vita Liberte left Deloitte Latvia to go it alone. We spoke to Vita about the kinds of cases that are coming their way.

While 2007 was a record year for growth in the legal services sector, how would you evaluate the recession period and the last 12 months of recovery?
I would say we’ve always been busy. Our turnover has been increasing steadily during all these years. It’s the areas of the legal services we’ve provided that have changed. In 2008, it was all about insolvencies and debt recovery. Now, of course, it’s mergers and acquisitions. We’re currently working on our two biggest M&A deals.
The amendments to the Immigration Law passed last year, which provide residence permits in Latvia in exchange for investment in real estate, companies or subordinated bank capital, have helped us to recover our real estate department. We’re working on the legal aspects to several residential real estate deals, together with investors from a wide variety of countries, mainly Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus. There’s also Chinese interest.

Tax law is one of your specialties. What kinds of cases are you seeing there that you didn’t before?
Tax law cases haven’t changed that much. There are all kinds – compliance, tax structuring. One relatively new area is asset planning, where clients are thinking how to leave their wealth. This is the first generation of wealth now, and for the first time people are considering how to make wills, estate planning and so on. It gets especially complicated if there are estates abroad.
The tax authorities in Latvia are more and more advanced. So that results in more work in relation to, for example, transfer pricing rules between related companies. Rules on this are effective here but are only now being administered properly. There’s a lot of work too with tax audits – that’s always been there.
Away from tax law, another of my specialties is PPP. I’m a founder of the PPP Association in Latvia. I’ve published a book and given EU-financed seminars in the regions. But it has been hard to get individual projects off the ground.

Now that more and more work is coming through, are bigger law firms looking to outsource some of the more menial “running work” to smaller subcontractors rather than hiring new staff?
No, it’s better to hire internally. Law firms would constantly be worried about clients’ data security being compromised. Outsourcing is not something that lawyers do, at least not in Latvia, and law firms are not that big. In the US, they outsource some of the technical work.

You spent a while as a lawyer for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP at its New York HQ. How has that experience helped you in your work in Latvia?
I can‘t really apply the knowledge that I gained there; it‘s a different law system. But the exposure to international law and international taxation, it does help. It‘s more the communication skills – cultural rather than technical knowledge.