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JSA tax chair Ashok Dhingra & 2 partners start own tax-anti-corruption firm with 8,000-book library


J Sagar Associates (JSA) tax chair Ashok Dhingra, partner Smita Singh, and partner-equivalent chartered accountant (CA) Sonia Gupta, have set up boutique tax advisory firm Ashok Dhingra Associates (ADA).

The firm would focus on two primary areas - indirect taxes and regulatory, and anti-corruption laws, explained Dhingra.

“We are not doing transactional work,” he said, adding that the firm would only act for multi-national companies and foreign law firms.

Dhingra said that 70 per cent of his former JSA clients had already agreed to move to his new firm, after JSA had offered to waive the non-compete clause on his retirement with respect to clients and hiring colleagues.

The firm (including Dhingra, partner Singh and principal consultant Gupta), would consist of six fee-earners operating from an office in Gurgaon.

Dhingra added that he had also already moved his personal law library that he'd been building since 1976 to the office, consisting of 7,000 to 8,000 books.

The former bureaucrat had left Khaitan & Co as a partner in 2009 to join JSA in Gurgaon, where he became a partner and chair of the tax customs & trade team, and co-chair of the corporate compliance, anti-corruption & investigations team. From 1998 to 2005, he had worked at Arthur Andersen, Ernst & Young and KPMG, after 22 years at various government departments, including customs, central excise and service tax.

Smita Singh is a 2006-Delhi University law graduate, who had joined JSA from Khaitan with Dhingra in 2009, getting elevated to the salaried partnership earlier this year.

Gupta is a 2002-batch chartered accountant with a focus on customs trade, foreign trade policy, regulatory, money laundering and anti-corruption laws. She had joined JSA in 2009 from ING Vysya Bank where she was manager-credit.

“We wish him well - he's always personally been a dear friend,” commented JSA Bangalore partner Sajai Singh. He also confirmed that JSA operated a retirement policy where partners can voluntarily opt to retire at age 60, rather than 65, which Dhingra took advantage of, and that, as far as he was aware, the firm did not generally impose non-compete clauses on early retirees.

The only remaining partner in the tax practice at JSA was currently Sunil Jain in Gurgaon, alongside several other fee-earners. Sajai Singh said that the firm hoped to make an announcement before the end of the year about a replacement for Dhingra at the indirect tax and senior level of the practice.

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