PROFITS at law firm MacRoberts fell by 28 per cent in the year to April 2017, after £2 million worth of advice given on the Rangers tax case in the previous year was not repeated.

In the 2014/15 year the firm turned over £18m, with that figure rising to £19.8m in 2015/16, the year in which the Court of Session found in HMRC’s favour in a dispute over the football club’s use of employee benefit trusts to pay its team.

Between 2001 and 2010 Rangers paid its players, managers and directors more than £47m in tax-free loans, but HMRC argued that the sums were taxable earnings.

Accounts filed with Companies House this week show that in 2016/17 MacRoberts’ turnover fell by 12 per cent to £17.5m while its profit figure fell by 28 per cent to £5m, its lowest level since the firm converted to a limited liability partnership 10 years ago.

While he would not confirm which party MacRoberts represented in the Rangers case - which was later appealed to the UK Supreme Court, where HMRC was again successful - the firm’s managing partner John Macmillan said its conclusion in the Scottish courts was largely to blame for the difference in the firm’s figures year to year.

“We had a really stellar year in the preceding year because of a particularly enormous piece of litigation we were involved in,” he said.

“There was a huge step up in those accounts from various years before that.

“The litigation was always going to be limited and had a beginning and an end. It ended in May 2016 but had made a huge contribution in the 2015/16 year that didn’t repeat at all in 2016/17.”

In addition to boosting the firm’s figures overall, the advice given on the Rangers case resulted in one of the firm’s partners earning a sizeable bonus in the 2015/16 year.

On average, partners at the firm received a profit share of £150,000 for the year while the top-earner was awarded £553,000, with the £400,000 uplift believed to be directly linked with the litigation.

In 2016/17 the average amount of profit attributed to each partner had fallen to £116,000 with the top earner receiving £165,000.

Despite the falls, Mr Macmillan said the firm is “very pleased with how the current year is going”.

“We don’t have the numbers for December yet but to the end of November we are five per cent up on turnover, 28 per cent up on profit and 11 per cent up on headcount,” he said.

“Our financial year-end is at the end of April so we still have four months to go but usually the last four months are a strong part of the year.”

Mr Macmillan said part of the growth has come from the firm’s family practice, which was expanded in September with the addition of Shoosmiths partner Marika Franceschi, an expert in complex divorce cases.

He added that the firm is targeting expansion in its Edinburgh and Dundee offices to drive further growth.

This comes after the firm’s staff headcount fell from 166 to 158 between 2015/16 and 2016/17 while partner numbers declined from 47 to 43.

It is understood that the firm managed out a number of partners during the course of the financial year, resulting in payments made to former partners rising from £284,000 in 2015/16 to £461,000.

This represents payments for profit shares retained in the business as well as the return of capital paid in at the point of joining the partnership.

Elsewhere, the amount the firm paid to fund its share of the Scottish Solicitors Staff Pension Fund - a final salary scheme used by a number of law firms - rose by 45 per cent, from £96,000 to £139,000.

Former MacRoberts staff or their beneficiaries were paid a total of £80,000 from the fund during the financial year.

MacRoberts is responsible for a deficit in the scheme valued at £1.1m at the end of 2016//17, down from £1.3m.