In conversation with Siddharth Kakka on his experience with taxation law

Adv. Siddharth Kakka is an Associate at AMLEGALS, an Ahmedabad based Firm. He primarily focuses on Laws of Taxation. He currently stays in Gujarat. He has been interviewed by Masooma Rizvi who is currently pursuing law from HNLU, Raipur. 

  1. Hello sir! Thank you for speaking to us. Please introduce yourself to our readers. 

Thank you for the kind invitation. I graduated from MKES College of Law, Mumbai and I majorly practice before the Bombay High Court and before various other courts and tribunals in India in the areas of Direct, Indirect and International Tax, SEBI Act and Regulations, I and B Code, arbitration, and other allied laws.

  1. You work not only with Direct Tax and GST but also more niche areas like Transfer Pricing and DTAA. Please tell us what motivated you to pursue Tax Law as a career option.

Since I am a first-generation lawyer, I had no pre-defined notions of which specific branch of law I wish to pursue my career in. The biggest motivation for me to pursue taxation laws is my mother who always wanted me to realise that failure in Chartered Accountancy is not the end of my career and career in taxation law is an admirable choice as well. Thus, every day, I make an attempt to push myself more into the learning of taxation laws. I believe that a lawyer with the upper hand in taxation law may master any field in law.

  1. Do you see yourself gravitated towards one branch of tax more than the others? If so, why. 

I was never inclined towards a specific branch of tax. Every branch is inter-related, for instance, to understand the provisions of International Tax and Transfer Pricing, a thorough knowledge of Income Tax Act, 1961 becomes a pre-requisite. Thus, knowledge of every stream of tax is very crucial to learn and get the hang of other fields of taxation. I have always tried to explore and understand every branch of taxation law, including Income Tax, International Tax, Transfer Pricing, and G.S.T. in detail. This has given me an edge in understanding all the aspects of tax well. Of course, gradually, several years of practice in taxation gives you the immoderation to select a specific subject of tax and enhance your practice area on the same.

  1. It is generally believed that lawyers need a strong understanding of Accounts and Maths to do well in tax. Do you agree? Do you think it is necessary to be a company accountant or company secretary to be successful as a tax lawyer?

I believe there are exceptions to everything and that it is a misconception among young lawyers which pushes them to believe that CA degree is a pre-requisite for practising taxation or for being recruited by law firms dealing in taxation laws. The scenario has changed for better wherein many law firms are no more looking for lawyers with CA degree.

I am not a chartered accountant or a company secretary, but I never felt like my qualifications have become an obstacle for me to understand taxation as a subject. I believe a basic knowledge of accounts and tax as a subject helps a person to have a good hold on taxation law in a short span of time; however, a lawyer with the non-commerce background can make an outstanding career in tax litigation and advisory as well. I have seen lawyers who are doing excellent in tax litigation and advisory who neither possess a CA or CS degree nor have studied accounts or maths in detail or specialised in the same. I firmly believe that passion, persistence and patience are the key to a successful career in taxation and there are no other mandatory requirements for any lawyer to make a career in taxation laws.

  1. How important is doing proper legal research, and how should law students equip themselves with legal research skills?

Legal research is a key factor in the legal profession and even as a law student. Research is the most important and basic skill which is required daily in litigation and advisory. For every law student, legal research plays a crucial role and they must inculcate a habit of researching and analyzing various laws and their implications. Research requires clarity of thought process, which helps one identify the exact requirement of the case or any aspect. Research is a vital skill for a successful lawyer which can be mastered gradually with time and continuous practice.

  1. What do you mean by “exhaustion of search”?

Any search is said to be exhausted only when there is nothing on this domain which can relate to the subject matter of the search even after putting all the factors and searching for the subject matter to all the portals and books.

  1. You did graduation in commerce and later followed it up with a Bachelor of Laws specialising in taxation. How is this experience different from a conventional Five-Year BA LLB Course offered at universities? 

To do graduation in commerce and opting for law was not a choice, rather it was due to lack of guidance towards the correct approach of making a career in law. However, completing studies in three  years law course or five years law course offered at universities makes no difference as per my experience. Of course, students opting for five years law course have the advantage of proper guidance and compulsory internships during their vacations which may not be experienced by students who opt for three  years law course. However, the real examination of law students starts when they start practising as lawyers, wherein more weightage is given to the practical understanding of subjects and thorough knowledge of modus operandi of courts, tribunals and various legal procedures across India for litigation. I believe, there is not much difference between students opting for three years LLB course and those opting for five years LLB course. In the end, every law student will be confronted by the same set of problems.

  1. You have always been inspired to “create your own path.” Please share your experience of being a first-generation lawyer. 

Well, create your own path is my life’s fundamental principle which I learned very early in my life and it had helped me to muster courage and patience in times when I had neither guidance, mentoring, suggestions nor any motivation as I had no legal or educational family background. Being a first-generation lawyer, I have to be very proactive in understanding the legal field and I took it as a challenge to prove myself. I had no contacts in the legal field, which made procuring internships as a law student a difficult task for me. I used to travel for hours in local trains in Mumbai from Virar to Churchgate to attend seminars and conferences in various legal forums like Hammurabi Tablet and others to meet lawyers to get an overview of the modus operandi of the legal profession. A good mentor or a pathfinder in the initial stage of a career becomes very important to understand any completely new profession. I had discovered my passion for taxation law in my first year of law school and had decided to specialise in the field. However, without references or contacts, it was a task to get an internship under the aegis of a good lawyer or a law firm. I resided on the outskirts of Mumbai (in Virar) which made it even more challenging for the reason that, I had to travel for almost 6 to 7 hours daily for internships which were at times very demotivating. But my mother’s constant support helped me sail through such phase. Being a first-generation lawyer is an altogether different experience and there are flip sides to it. On the one hand, you have the liberty to design your distinct career path, but on the other hand, every day is a new challenge with a new struggle, without a helping hand.

  1. Please share your experience of working in a firm and compare it with your litigation experience at the beginning of your career.

I started my practice as a junior with the tax counsel and then ended up with the law firm at Bombay office. Working with a tax counsel and working under a law firm are different experiences since both of these have their modus operandi and ways to look at the various facets of tax law. However, it is subject to an individual choice and one must consider factors like job satisfaction, quality of work and all other aspects of life before choosing a suitable career.

  1. What is your advice to law students who are headed towards pursuing tax law? 

Taxation law requires a positive attitude, hard work and persistence. “Reading and researching” is the key to learn tax law.

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