My clients are mostly owner-managed businesses, private clients, and firms of lawyers and accountants. I have also provided a number of expert witness reports, involving tax matters, instructed by firms of solicitors.


A wide range of tax matters. Company reconstructions and demergers. Capital gains tax, especially on business sales and inheritance tax planning. Tax valuations for inheritance tax purposes and EMI share option schemes.


Ranging from manufacturing, tech to private clients.


John Cairns is a Tax Partner based in our Glasgow office. John provides expert advice to a wide range of clients, both corporate and personal, including a number where we do not provide compliance services for, such as advising lawyers and smaller firms of accountants in respect of their clients.

John works within the corporate and personal tax departments but also assists entrepreneurial services and corporate finance where there is a business disposal or acquisition. He brings a wide knowledge of tax, built up over a long period of practical experience, to AAB.

The first port of call

“I adopt a “can do” attitude to try to help clients get to where they want to be, delivering sound practical advice given in a quick timescale. It may not be possible to land them in the particular crater of the moon where they would ideally like to be, because of prohibitive tax costs but I do my best to get them as close as possible.

I also act as a sounding board for some of their thoughts, and if they do not know where to seek advice on a particular issue I am often their first port of call for a pointer in the right direction.”

Building client relationships that last

“I would say one of the greatest strengths I bring to AAB is my ability to build strong client relationships that last, which is ultimately the key to success in business.

Throughout my career, I have sought to help clients achieve their objectives. I firmly believe in working with clients to achieve their objectives, rather than adopting a “the computer says no” attitude. Also, I strive to be available and to deal with matters for clients without having to be chased up.

I can think of several clients for whom I have acted since 1985 and a good number more for whom I have acted for long periods. Personally, the highest compliment I can receive from my clients is simply seeing them stay; after all, clients come back if they receive a good service and they look elsewhere if they receive a poor service. As a testament to this, I once had a client say to me, “We really view you as being part of the family John,” by two brothers for whom I have acted since 1989.”

The ever-changing rules

“One of the greatest challenges in tax is that it is always changing. Apart from the annual Budget, case law is developing all the time, as well as changes in the practice of HMRC. It is crucial to keep up with the ever-changing legislation continuously.

I remain a member of the ICAS Technical Bulletin editorial panel, having been so since issue 1. I was a member of the ICAS Taxation Committee for 25 years and served as convenor of it for the final 6 years. Even after coming off this Committee, I was invited to come back on to the Private Client Committee of which I remain a member.”

AML is not a box-ticking exercise

“There was a very good article on the anti-money laundering requirements and the fact that many now treat this as a box-ticking exercise with only around 4,000 reports being made by accountants each year. The reality is that laws are often passed by people who have little or no experience of the practicalities of business life, which is why, for me, the most satisfying aspect of working with my client is to be able to provide sound practical advice to them.”

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