Interview with students in the Advanced Master’s (LLM) Programme in International Tax Law 2017/18Nov-22-2017
We talked to Laura Simmonds and Lakshmi Ramakrishnan, two students in the Advanced Master’s (LLM) programme in International Tax Law, jointly organized by the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and IBFD.
What is your background (country, study and work)?
Laura: Before starting the LLM programme, I was a junior lawyer assigned to the cabinet of Advocate-General Wahl at the ECJ, working mainly on drafting and research assignments related to preliminary ruling requests. I earned my law degree in the United Kingdom, and I received an LLM in EU Law from the College of Europe. My father is British and my mother is Irish, but I grew up in France and also lived in Luxembourg for two years. I feel more French than British.
Lakshmi: I am from India and firstly graduated from engineering school. Later, I sat for the government open examinations for civil servants. I was selected for the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) in 2008. Later, I was trained in accountancy and tax law. Interested by concepts of law, I pursued a full-time course in taxation and business law and obtained a master’s degree. I have worked in various capacities for the fiscal administration for the past ten years, including five years of administrative experience in desk and field audits, and three years of policy experience in the Ministry of Finance, India’s annual budget division. I was actively involved in the implementation of the BEPS Action Plan (1 and 4) in India. I am married, and my wife has a PhD in GIS and Remote Sensing from the United States. She is currently working in the United Kingdom for a company operating in the field of flood modelling.
What is your reason for partaking in the UvA/IBFD advanced LLM programme?
Lakshmi: The fact that it is in Europe, which is the best location for tax-related studies. I chose IBFD for its good reputation and the strong research platform it offers along with the possibility to interact with leading minds in the field. I was also accepted at Vienna and Leiden, but I chose Amsterdam because it was highly recommended by my seniors in the IRS, India. One of my colleagues, who completed his studies in 2014-15 at IBFD, strongly advocated this programme. I personally feel that one of the unique features of the programme is that it is quite specific, yet it addresses a diverse group of students from varied backgrounds, such as tax lawyers, tax practitioners, economists, etc. You get a very rich experience and various perspectives in approaching a matter.
Laura: I like the programme. It’s very comprehensive – more than other programmes – and IBFD has a very good reputation. And because I received the IBFD scholarship, of course.
What are your first impressions? Compared to your home country, what is the biggest difference with the Netherlands, and with the Dutch?
Laura: The Dutch are very direct, sometimes even rude, but I think I mostly understand why. The desire to be efficient and clear makes sense. That being said, I had many nice encounters with the Dutch, especially on the bike. They’ve been very friendly and helpful towards me. I don’t like the weather so much, even compared to Luxembourg!
Lakshmi: The level of cleanliness and availability of bike lanes are something different from my country. People are quite open, and I find them fairly liberal in their attitude. I also noticed the Dutch directness.
Favourite Dutch food/dish: bitterballen or haring?
Laura: I have not tasted haring yet, so bitterballen indeed.
What is your favourite place in Amsterdam and surroundings?
Laura: My favourite so far is Vondelpark! I cycle every day from Lelylaan for about 35 minutes. I love the sounds, the birds, the dogs and the heaps of fresh air in the morning!
Lakshmi: Giethoorn is my favourite place in the Netherlands. You have your own boat there; it’s an experience in itself! I would say that Delta Park is one of the unique places in the Netherlands and is an engineering marvel.
How has the programme been so far?
Laura: I liked the EU Law block especially. The professors are the best in their field, and they are also frequently entertaining and witty.
Lakshmi: The professors have varied backgrounds, and their preparations differ. Some are more theoretical; others are more practical; some are more informal. But everything is well structured. I am impressed with the amount of information we’ve received in the two months until now. There is a disturbing trend of treating the source problem as a developing country issue and the residence problem as a developed country issue, which forces one to think in binary terms and removes the scope for cross-learnings from best practices. Further, in general, source country issues are highlighted more, and residence country issues are treated as consequences/derivatives of the source country.
Any plans for the upcoming Christmas holidays?
Laura: I will visit my family in Paris, and I will also go skiing (in La Plagne, Vallée de la Tarentaise).
Lakshmi: I will further explore Europe, e.g. go to Austria (Salzburg) and Germany (Königssee).
What are your plans for the future, after the LLM?
Lakshmi: I am keeping an open mind. I would like to work for the OECD, if possible. I hope I have a good chance with an IBFD/UvA LLM diploma. I can also contribute effectively back in my home country with the diverse knowledge I have acquired here.
Laura: I will look for a job in Brussels or Luxembourg, working on EU tax law and/or tax policy.
What do you do outside class when you are not studying?
Laura: I enjoy spending time with my boyfriend and my friends, and exploring Brussels (which I travel to frequently) and Amsterdam. I also watch too much Netflix! Finally, I enjoy reading and trying to maintain a blog with my father about the books we read.
Lakshmi: I enjoy travelling, also in the Netherlands, e.g. going to the Delta Works, etc.
What is your favourite means of transport: bike or public transport?
Lakshmi: Public transport/train and metro (I live in Almere), and walking!
Laura: The bike!
We wish Laura and Lakshmi good luck and every success in their future careers!