Professor John Tiley: Influential authority on UK tax legislation

Measures he helped bring in to combat tax avoidance are likely to save £230m per year

Professor John Tiley, one of the UK’s leading tax law experts at Cambridge University’s prestigious Faculty for Tax Law, was found dead having apparently fallen from the roof of the Faculty building.

A Fellow of Queens’ College, Tiley had spent a family day with his wife Jillinda, a Fellow of Lucy Cavendish College, and had gone out to attend a rehearsal for a play in a local church. His body was found shortly afterwards. His death is not being treated as suspicious. His wife had no idea why her husband apparently took his own life, days before their 49th wedding anniversary, but speculated that he may have received news about a medical problem.

Tiley’s legacy is more certain. He was a pioneer of the academic study of tax law in the UK and his influence, on other scholars and on tax practitioners, was enormous. He shunned London’s top law firms to concentrate on, in particular, two areas of academic work that were usually seen as “hot potatoes” by Chancellors of the Exchequer, tax avoidance and family taxation. In 2011, he was appointed to a taxation study group which concluded that the government should contemplate introducing a General Anti-Abuse Rule to tackle “abusive avoidance”. The measures are due to be introduced this year and are expected to recoup an annual £230 million, although sceptics say it will need reviewing every two years “because there are so many flaws within it”.

Appointed Chairman of the Cambridge Law Faculty in 1992, Tiley had a vision of a single new Faculty that would promote a cohesive and intellectually vibrant community of scholars. He oversaw the construction of the new faculty building on the Sidgwick site, and was in constant dialogue with the architects, Lord Foster and Partners, to ensure that it met his exacting requirements.

Opened in 1995 by The Duke of Edinburgh, the centre brought together the Squire Law Library, the Faculty’s lecture and seminar rooms, offices and common-room facilities, housing around 100 academic and non-academic staff. The building has become the hub of intellectual life in the Faculty.

With support from the Chartered Institute of Taxation, the International Fiscal Association Congress Trustees and KPMG, in 2001 Tiley founded the Faculty’s Centre for Tax Law. Subsequently, he and his colleagues formed the UK’s only group of senior academics focusing on the subject.

Born in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire in 1941, Tiley was the son of a tax inspector. He was one of the top scholars at Winchester College, where he played football, 3rd XI cricket, was a member of the school orchestra, the College Cadet Force, the astronomy society and was also a prefect. Leaving in 1959, he went to Lincoln College, Oxford, where he was a Winter Williams law scholar.

After a brief spell lecturing in law at Lincoln College, in 1964 Tiley moved to Birmingham University and then to Queens’ College, Cambridge in 1967, where over the next 46 years he held many of the most important College Offices, including Senior Bursar and Vice-President. In 1990 he became the Faculty’s first Professor of the Law of Taxation, a position he held until retirement in 2008. He was appointed chairman of the Law Faculty from 1992-95 and served as president of the Society of Public Teachers of Law in 1995-96. He fulfilled his penchant for travel as a visiting professor in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Tiley was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple in 1964, although he never practised. In 1984 he became one of the first recorders appointed from academia, becoming an Assistant Recorder (1984-88) on the South-Eastern Circuit, then a Recorder specialising in Family Law from 1989-99. In 2003 he became the first person to be appointed CBE for his services to tax law and policy. He was admitted as a Fellow of the British Academy in 2008, with Winchester College bestowing its greatest honour when he was received Ad Portas in 2011. He was appointed honorary QC in 2009.

He was known for the warmth and enthusiasm of his teaching, and in retirement Tiley’s dedication to teaching and his subject remained undiminished, as he continued with both. He wrote a number of books, the most notable being the annual Tiley & Collison’s UK Tax Guide, co-written with David Collison, which last year reached its 30th edition, and Revenue Law, first published in 1976.

In his free time, Tiley enjoyed walking, listening to music, travel, visiting art galleries and museums.

John Tiley, academic: born 25 February 1941; CBE 2003; married 1964 Jillinda Draper (one daughter, two sons); died Cambridge 30 June 2013.

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