Alison Foster QC

Year of call:

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“Very impressive. She is very clever, handles clients exceptionally well and has great instincts as an advocate.”
Chambers UK 2018

“A highly effective and confident advocate, who is listened to by judges at all levels.”
Legal 500 2017

Alison Foster is a highly successful public lawyer with particular expertise in contentious VAT, taxation, tax and VAT in the property context and regulation. Her cases almost always involve EU law and arguments on Human Rights. She has appeared in some of the highest profile cases at all levels.

Alison won Barrister of the Year 2016 at the Modern Law Awards and Professional Discipline Silk of the Year at the Chambers Bar Awards 2017.

Her in-depth public law and regulatory knowledge, and outstanding advocacy have led to instructions across most areas of regulation and taxation for domestic and foreign clients. She specialises in complex matters requiring careful, persuasive advocacy and her clients also include financial and legal professionals here and abroad. She sits as a deputy High Court Judge of the Chancery Division and of the Queen’s Bench Division and is Joint Head of Chambers at 39 Essex Chambers. In 2019, Alison was appointed a legal chair for The Alternative Investment Markets (AIM) Disciplinary Committee (“ADC”) and the appeal committee of the ADC (the AIM Disciplinary Appeals Committee (“ADAC”)) who are under the operating authority of the London Stock Exchange.

The directories list her as a leading barrister in each of her specialisations. She is described (2018 / 2017 directories) as: “Very impressive. She is very clever, handles clients exceptionally well and has great instincts as an advocate.”; “…absolutely excellent and everything you want in a silk…very approachable and clear”; “An apparently effortless command of the legal and procedural frameworks involved and she has an excellent strategic view of a case. Crucially, she is thoughtful, humane and yet realistic with clients.” ; and “A wonderful barrister; high on the list for difficult cases”.



Alison is recommended in all the major reference guides and as a Leading Silk in each of her practice specialisms: Administrative & Public Law, Professional Discipline and Indirect Tax.

Recent comments include:

  • Very impressive.  She is very clever, handles clients exceptionally well and has great instincts as an advocate.
  • A highly effective and confident advocate who is listened to by judges at all levels.  She is supremely knowledgeable in regulatory law.” 
  • “An apparently effortless command of the legal and procedural frameworks involved and she has an excellent strategic view of a case.  Crucially, she is thoughtful, humane and yet realistic with clients.
  • A supremely confident advocate who can think on her feet and is well respected by judges and clients alike.  She’s got the authority and experience to reassure clients and make judges listen to her.
  • She has an apparently effortless command of the legal and procedural frameworks involved and has an excellent strategic view of a case.
  •  “Unprecedented stamina and tremendous gravitas.
  • She demonstrates impressive knowledge of a wide range of issues.
  • She is absolutely excellent and everything you want in a silk. She is very approachable and clear, and adds insight.
  • She’s great to work with. A very, very charming advocate. Clients love her. She gets on top of things quickly and has got a really good manner in court.
  • She is hugely respected and a real administrative law heavyweight who is always up for the fight.
  • An approachable lawyer and effective advocate.
  • A highly effective and confident advocate.
  • Expert knowledge of regulatory judicial review.
  • She has the skill and gravitas to strike exactly the right balance in very difficult circumstances.
  • She is supremely knowledgeable when it comes to regulatory law, and confident and assertive in court.
  • simply outstanding, and highly approachable
  • articulate, superb with clients and absolutely on top of her subject matter… a very powerful advocate
  • ticks all the boxes – she is extremely bright, understands immediately what our objectives are, and is an excellent strategist.
  • real ‘gravitas’ for more complex cases
  • a charming barrister who is not afraid of a challenge… thorough and well-researched advice… a name that ranks up there beyond all others… client-focused and down-to-earth
  • someone with a real eye for detail who excels on complex and high-profile cases, a real leader in her field

Related Cases

Selection of Representative Reported Cases

The following (mostly very recent) reported cases are chosen to illustrate the breadth of Alison’s practice at a high level across all areas of administrative, human rights, regulatory and commercial law:

R. (on the application of de Silva) v Revenue and Customs Commissioners [2017] UKSC 74:   Alison acted for the Respondents, Revenue & Custom Commissioners.  HMRC had been entitled to amend claims for carry-back loss relief made in the self-assessment tax returns of the partners in limited partnerships that were participating in marketed tax avoidance schemes.  The partners were seeking to carry back their share of the partnerships’ trading losses to set off against their own previous years’ tax liability, and HMRC had been entitled to amend their returns rather than open an inquiry under the Taxes Management Act 1970 Sch.1A.

Tesco Freetime Ltd and Tesco PLC v Revenue and Customs [2017] UKFTT 614 (TC):   Alison acted for the Respondents, Revenue & Custom Commissioners.  Payments made by a Tesco group company to third parties in connection with goods and services they provided to its customers pursuant to its loyalty card scheme did not constitute third-party consideration for supplies made to the customers.  The payments were consideration for supplies made by the third parties to the Tesco company, and the VAT it incurred when making them was recoverable input tax.

BAT Industries and others v HMRC [2017] UKFTT 558 (July 2017):   Alison acted for the Respondents, Revenue & Customs Commissioners.  The imposition in the Corporation Tax Act 2010 Pt 8C of a 45% corporation tax charge on compound interest payable by HMRC on restitution awards in respect of unlawfully collected tax did not breach EU law or any fundamental rights.

R (on the application of (1) The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (2) Susan Sharpe (Claimants) v Secretary of State for Health (Defendant) & National Pharmacy Association (Interested Party) : R (on the application of National Pharmacy Association) v Secretary of State for Health (2017):   Alison acted for the Claimants, The Pharmaceutical Service Negotiating Committee and Susan Sharpe.  A consultation process performed by the Secretary of State, by which the remuneration of pharmacies was to be reduced as part of required financial savings, had not been unfair or in breach of statutory requirements.  In conjoined claims, the claimants sought judicial review of the consultation process performed by the defendant Secretary of State, by which remuneration of pharmacies which dispensed medicines and provided other NHS services was to be reduced.

R (on the application of Vesna Mandic-Bozic) (Claimant) v British Association for Counselling & Psycotheraphy (Defendant) & United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (Interested Party) (2016):   Alison acted for the Claimant, instructed by Kingsley Napley LLP.  Cause of action estoppel applied to prevent a regulatory body from bringing disciplinary proceedings against a psychotherapist where a separate body, which also regulated the same field, had adjudicated on identical complaints against her. It was also manifestly unfair for her to be exposed to the same complaints twice.

R. (on the application of de Silva) v Revenue and Customs Commissioners (Court of Appeal) [2016] S.T.C. 1333; [2016] B.T.C. 6; (currently the subject of a petition to the Supreme Court):    Alison acted successfully in defending the Revenue’s approach to direct taxation and reliefs concerning the film industry.

Isle of Wight & Others v HMRC [2015] EWCA Civ 1303; [2016] P.T.S.R. 620:   This competition law case involved principles of VAT and public law, and billions of alleged lost revenue.  Alison acted successfully for HMRC in the matter which had been running for over 10 years.

BMC Properties and Management Ltd v Jackson (Valuation Officer) (Court of Appeal) [2015] EWCA Civ 1306; [2016] R.A. 1:   A rating appeal in which Alison acted for the Claimant property owner relying upon drafting inadequacies in the Local Govt. Finance Act 1988.

R. (on the application of Chancery (UK) LLP) v Financial Ombudsman Service Ltd [2015] EWHC 407 (Admin); [2015] B.T.C. 13; (currently to be heard before the Court of Appeal):   This is the first challenge to the Financial Ombudsman’s assertion of jurisdiction over tax advisors, Alison acts for the advisor.  The case will be heard shortly on appeal.

Health and Care Professions Council v Lovett (un reported) (to 2015):   This was the longest and most complex case the HCPC have dealt with.  Alison acted for a clinical psychologist facing multiple allegations by a high profile family, including fraudulent claims for fees and expenses; refusal to disclose clinical records; false representations about patients’ mental health; misrepresenting qualifications; and inadequate treatment.

Desmond James & Doreen James v HM Coroner for Surrey [2014] EWHC 2585 (Admin):   Alison led the application for a fresh inquest into the death of Cheryl James at Deepcut barracks.

Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons v Samuel Privy Council (United Kingdom), [2014] UKPC 13:   Alison acted for the RCVS in an appeal by an ethnic minority practitioner who had reacted with violence to a racial insult.

R. v C. (HL) [2009] UKHL 42; [2009] 1 W.L.R. 1786:   Alison acted for the CPS in their appeal in the leading case on capacity to consent and offences against mentally discorded persons.

Fleming (t/a Bodycraft) v Customs & Excise Commissioners (HL) [2008] UKHL [2008] 1 W.L.R. 195; [2008] 1 All E.R. 1061; [2008] S.T.C. 324; [2008] 1 C.M.L.R. 48; [2008] Eu. L.R. 455; [2008] B.T.C. 5096; [2008] B.V.C. 221; [2008] S.T.I. 181; (2008) 158 N.L.J. 182; (2008) 152(5) S.J.L.B. 30; [2008] N.P.C.:   This was a £2 Billion case involving back claims for tax by taxpayers, where national legislation imposing a limitation period was defective and involved transitional arrangements under European law.

GSTS Pathology Services LLP v Revenue & Customs Commissioners (2014):   The supply of pathology services, including testing samples of body fluid and tissue, by a private company to NHS Trusts constituted “medical care” and was therefore exempt from VAT.

Fuglers LLP (in association with David Berens & Co) (2) David Anthony Berens (3) Bryan Myer Fugler v Solicitors Regulation Authority (2014):   The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal had been justified in imposing a total fine of £75,000 upon a firm and two partners who had been found guilty of misconduct after allowing the firm’s client account to be used as a banking facility by a client who was at risk of insolvency.  There had been payments through the account of over £10 million and the solicitors had made decisions which involved the favourable treatment of some unsecured creditors over others.  The misconduct was sufficiently serious to require the highest level of fine.

R v C [HL] [2010] Crim LR 75:   Consent, capacity and the criminal law.

Revenue and Customs Commissioners v London Clubs Management (CA) [2012] STC 388 Tax:   Partial exemption and the gaming industry, and the propriety of various methods of calculation. Consideration of the use of Management Accounts and accounting evidence in tax appeals, and economic reality.

R v Zenios Hampstead Garden Suburb (CA) [2011] EWCA 1645:   Law of Property Act 1925, non-public body operating a scheme of management: parliamentary intention, promotion of the public interest and interests in land.

Revenue & Customs Commissioners V (1) Insurancewide.Com Services Ltd (2) Trader Media Group Ltd (CA) [2010] STC 1572 : [2011] Lloyd’s Rep IR 120:   Incidence of tax on insurance – broking, intermediary services; meaning of insurance terms in European Law.

Mr Malcolm Morgan Jones (on behalf of the estate of Mr Evan Jones in his own capacity) and (1) Powys Local Health Board (2) Neath Port Talbot Local Health Board (2009) 12 CCL Rep 68:   Restitution claim for care home fees.

Riverside Housing v Revenue and Customs Commissioner [2006] STC 2072:   Social landlords,  scope of concept of commercial activity and economic activity, public authority, limits of concepts of public law in indirect taxation and exemption.

Giuseppe Ruscillo v (1) Council for the Regulation of Health Care Professionals (2) General Medical Council: Council for the Regulation of Health Care Professionals (2) General Medical Council v (1) The Nursing & Midwifery Council (2) Steven Truscott (CA) 1 WLR 717; [2005] Lloyd’s Rep Med 65:   Leading case on the extent of the powers of the Council for the Regulation of Health Care Professionals.

Pegasus Birds Ltd v Customs & Excise Commissioners (CA) [2004] STC 1509:   Leading case on the statutory test for best judgment and European administrative law implications for Commissioners under VATA.

R v The National Lottery Commission ex parte Camelot plc (QBD) 21 September 2000 [2001] EMLR 43:   Decision of the UK National Lottery Commission not to award the new 7 year lottery license to Camelot plc: commercial licenses and fairness.

R v Lloyd’s of London ex parte Briggs [1993] Ll. LR 176:   First JR of Lloyd’s of London as regulator.

R v Board of Inland Revenue ex parte MFK Underwriting [1990] 1All ER 91:   Leading authority on estoppel commercial law and Revenue concessions.

R (JB) v (1) A Haddock (2) J Rigby (3) Wood (CA) [2006] Lloyd’s Rep Med 433 : (2007) 93 BMLR 52:   Legality of forcible treatment with anti-psychotics to non-consenting patients.

R (Rogers) v Swindon NHS Primary Care Trust and Secretary of State for Health (CA); [2006] 1 WLR 2649:   The availability of Herceptin to women suffering breast cancer.

R (on the application of Dennis Nilsen) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (CA)  (2005) 1 WLR 1028; (2005) EMLR 11and ECHR 3 – 6882/05 [2008] ECHR 1664:   Acting for Dennis Nilsen regarding prison and his autobiography Art 10, Art 5. Claims.

R (CPS) v Registrar General for Births, Deaths and Marriages (CA) [2003] QB 1222:   Leading case on scope of marriage statutes and duties of Registrar.

Nicole Threlfall v General Optical Council, The Times 2nd December 2004:  First High Court challenge to the disciplinary powers of the General Optical Council, defining jurisdiction and regulatory scope of Regulations.

Gage v General Chiropractic Council (QBD) (QBD) 1 November 2004 [2004] EWHC 2762 (Admin):   First High Court challenge to the disciplinary powers and jurisdiction of a new regulator under untested statutory provisions.

R (A, B, X & Y) v East Sussex County Council and Disability Rights Commission (QBD) [2003] LGR 529; (2003) 6 CCLR 177 and 193:   First case on duties of carers under HRA regarding lifting of disabled.

R (Mahmood) v Royal Pharmaceutical Society Of Great Britain (CA) 31 July 2001 [2002] 1 WLR 879 CA:   First pharmaceutical consideration of higher education and European requirements.

R v Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain ex parte Panjawani [2002] 1127 (Admin):   First post Human Rights Act analysis of the professional disciplinary procedures of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

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