Plenty of firms claim to have ‘cross-border tax specialists’ among their ranks. But not many have the international silverware to back this assertion up. Lizanne, who is taking advantage of Sentinel’s generous study incentives to complete a Master’s in International Tax at UCT, certainly walks the talk.
Participating in the Global Tax Treaties Commentaries (GTTC) Universities Project Competition was “an unbelievable journey” says Lizanne, a qualified attorney who describes winning as “the culmination of countless hours of research, preparation and hard work” and “an experience I won’t soon forget.”
While Lizanne is still coming to terms with the fact that her team won, Sentinel Director Coralea Zweig is not surprised in the slightest: “Since the moment she joined us, Lizanne has stood out.” Zweig adds that because Sentinel is a niche business, it’s not always easy to find the right person for the job. “But we know they are out there and are prepared to search until we find the right candidate.” Case in point Lizanne, who backs up her natural intellect with an incredible work ethic and boundless passion for sharing her specialist knowledge with everyone else at the firm – both informally and at Sentinel’s regular internal workshops.
Like all Sentinel employees, Lizanne is incentivised to learn continually. The firm isn’t just funding her Master’s degree; we also give her paid leave to attend classes and to prepare for exams. And while she’s the first to admit that entering the competition required many all-nighters, she did so knowing that she had the full backing of her bosses.
For Zweig, the investment is a no-brainer, as it benefits Sentinel, our staff and, most importantly, our clients who “can be comforted and confident in the realisation that they can call on our experts to guide them through the maze of what can be very complex cross border and global estate planning issues.” There can’t be many people in the industry who know more than Lizanne about South Africa’s tax treaties, for example. And we’ve got several other specialists of a similar calibre.
But what has she actually won?
The GTTC Universities Project Competition is an annual contest organised by the IBFD, the world’s foremost authority on cross-border taxation. Every year, students at 25 top universities (from 25 different countries) are invited to answer a burning question about international tax law. This year’s entrants were asked to analyse their respective countries’ tax treaties with all developing nations to establish whether their country displays any discernible tax policy in its dealings with these countries, or whether such treaties are negotiated on a case-by-case basis.
And what did she find?
Lizanne and her teammate Waseem Ismail (a CA at SANNE and fellow Master’s student) discovered that in its treaties with 47 different developing countries, South Africa displays “no discernable pattern”. With the exception of four articles where the students could see a distinct trend, “South Africa doesn’t really have a defined tax policy when it comes to treaty negotiations. We follow the OECD and/or UN most of the time, but sometimes we go way off script.”
What does it mean for me?
While South Africa’s tax treaty with Cambodia or Senegal may have little bearing on your legacy plan, you can rest easy in the knowledge that all of the experts at Sentinel are at the very top of their respective games. And that when a problem presents itself, we will all put our heads together to come up with the absolute best solution for you and your family.