David McLay

LLB (Hons), MCA, Victoria University of Wellington
LLM, University of Michigan 

1981 New Zealand  

Contact Details
Direct Phone: +64 4 914 1054
Mobile:          +64 21 490 939
Fax:              +64 4 473 3179

David McLay

David McLay specialises in tax, trust, and charities law.  He has broad experience and expertise in all facets of tax practice, including corporate income tax, Goods and Services Tax, and tax litigation.

David is well-known for:

  • His broad experience in taxation matters affecting many different types of industries and taxpayers;
  • His ability to provide effective solutions in an efficient and timely manner;
  • His effective negotiating style.

David has provided taxation advice on a wide range of transactions, including mergers and acquisitions, international capital markets transactions and project financing.  He has a very broad experience in New Zealand taxation matters.

Recent Experience

David has advised a number of Maori iwi on Treaty settlements and the establishment of post-settlement governance entities, including advising the Central North Island Iwi Collective on the CNI Forests Settlement in 2008 (involving over $400m) and the establishment and restructuring of Tuhoe - Te Uru Taumatua. 

He has significant experience in acting for clients in relation to proposed tax legislation, and has appeared before the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee on numerous occasions, as well as other Parliamentary Select Committees.  In 2009 and 2010, David acted as a specialist advisor to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee in relation to legislative drafting issues arising in two Tax Bills.

David has appeared for defendants in a number of tax prosecutions.

Tax Disputes

David is very experienced in handling tax disputes and is well known for his ability to resolve tax disputes without resort to litigation.  He has appeared as counsel in about 40 tax cases at all levels from the Privy Council to the Taxation Review Authority.  He appeared as junior counsel in the Privy Council in Rangatira Limited v CIR (gains from share sales).  He has appeared as lead counsel in a number of Court of Appeal cases, including:
    Shell NZ Holding Co Limited v CIR (GST – tax invoices on importation)
    CIR v Coveney (GST – farm houses)
    Hawkes’ Bay Power Distribution Limited v CIR (tax accounting)
Trusts and Charities

David also has an extensive advisory practice in relation to trusts for non-residents and overseas trust companies.  He provides trust law and taxation advice for these clients.

David has advised a number of significant charities and other non-profit organisations on a variety of structuring and restructuring issues.  He has appeared as counsel in a number of charity law cases, including Canterbury Development Corporation v Charities Commission (refusal of registration), Re Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust (
deregistration), Re Tuhoe Charitable Trust Board (charitable scheme of amalgamation), Global Connections in Mission v Mandeno (charitable scheme), Wood v Prisoners Aid & Rehabilitation Trust (appointment of liquidator). He is an honorary member of Philanthropy New Zealand, which represents the interests of grant-making charitable trusts.
Other Experiences

David speaks overseas on New Zealand tax matters on a regular basis, as well as at leading New Zealand conferences.  He has also written extensively on New Zealand tax issues.  He is the Consultant Editor for CCH’s New Zealand Tax Planning Report and a member of the Editorial Board for CCH’s New Zealand Income Tax Law and Practice.  David recently authored a chapter entitled "Taxation of Monetary Awards" in Blanchard (ed) Civil Remedies in New Zealand (2nd ed., 2011).

David has been listed by Chambers and Partners for many years.  Chambers Global in 2009 referred to David being "a notable tax practitioner" and in 2010 as "a well-renowned barrister, praised for his expertise in corporate taxation, GST and contentious taxation issues".  Chambers Asia Pacific (2014 edition) states that David "has a broad-ranging practice with a noted focus on the tax law aspects of charities and trusts" and (2016 edition) "is widely recognised by peers for his representation of charities and trusts".  He "is highly regarded for his pragmatic and commercial approach".

He is a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, and of its New Zealand Branch Education Committee. David is a former member of the New Zealand Branch Committee of the International Fiscal Association and the Taxation Committee of the New Zealand Law Society. 

David was Chair of the Rewrite Advisory Panel until its disestablishment in December 2014, having been appointed in June 2008 by the Minister of Revenue to replace the late Sir Ivor Richardson (former President of the Court of Appeal).  The Panel supervised the rewrite of the Income Tax Act and considered submissions about unintended legislative changes.  During 2010, David was a member of the GST Advisory Panel, which addressed transitional effects of the increase in the GST rate.
David was a Director (and later Chair) from 2008 to 2015 of Covenant Trustee Services Limited, which acts as a debt security trustee and as
a statutory supervisor of retirement villages.  He has been a member of the Advisory Board of Tax Management New Zealand Limited since 2003.  He is Chair of the Bible Society Development Fund, a member of the Diocesan Council of the Anglican Diocese of Wellington, and is a trustee of a number of charitable and other trusts.

Before commencing practice as a barrister, David was a tax partner at Bell Gully from 1986 until early 2003. Previously, David was a Lecturer in the Accountancy Department at Victoria University of Wellington.



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