High-quality tax training, recharging the batteries and cocktails
In addition to the obvious benefit of professional development, tax meeting in the south of Spain in February certainly included some other pleasing aspects. The meeting at hotel El Fuerte Marbella was perfectly located directly on the beach and within short walking distance of Marbella’s old town. Only one participant complained that it was “only” 18 degrees centigrade and sunny while he had been enjoying 30 degrees when he left his home country; South Africa.
The meeting attracted 44 delegates and several accompanying persons to Marbella, coming not only from Europe, but also from Canada, Colombia, India, Mexico, South Africa and USA. This gave the event a truly international flavour. It was an opportunity for old friends to catch up and new acquaintances to be made.
A short walk started off the meeting on Thursday evening. Our hosts, GGI Member firm Javier Carretero y Asociados (JC&A) Abogados, represented by Maria José Rubio and Santiago Lapausa, introduced the participants to the tapas culture in nearby bars. In a relaxed atmosphere, all participants had the chance to get to know each other while enjoying delicious food and drinks.
As global chairman of ITPG, I opened the technical programme with a presentation about international tax planning software on Friday morning. After the official start of the meeting, Professor Robert Anthony took over and introduced a case study on international holding and trade companies.
Six team leaders then formed six groups with the participants, identified by scarves of different colours. Each team had three hours to prepare a 10 minute presentation explaining: “Which country would in their opinion be best to incorporate a holding company?” This was very intense and involved highly practical tax work in small groups.
After listening to all six presentations, the jury (Professor Robert Anthony, Claudio Cocca and I) decided on the winners: Team Purple, which included Julie Bryant (UK), Viviane Moro (France), Bärbel Wierzoch (Germany), Claudine Heinrich (France) and Oyvind Baltzersen (Norway). The lucky winners were awarded a bottle of French champagne, sponsored by Benefitax.
As the weather was extremely good on Friday, lunch was laid outside the hotel with a panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea.
In the afternoon, another challenge awaited the participants and accompanying persons. In a teambuilding event, eight teams – all with members from different countries – were equipped with a map of Marbella, a questionnaire and some pesetas and had to make their way through the old town of Marbella. To successfully finish this town rally, team members had to answer questions and fulfil various tasks, not least demonstrating their drinking skills and dancing the authentic Spanish Flamenco. The afternoon was enjoyed by all, with some already planning to return to Marbella at some point in the near future.
In the evening, dinner was organised at the Club Marítimo Alevante on the harbour-front in Marbella. The winners of the teambuilding event received a prize and celebrated their success. As promised, all attendees were served a delicious Sex on the Beach cocktail.
On Saturday, I had the privilege of moderating technical tax sessions throughout the day. Ashish Bairagra (India) started with a presentation on “Taxation of indirect transfers and how do different countries tax such indirect transfers”. That was followed by a case study on “Base erosion/profit shifting” chaired by Klaus Küspert (Germany). I was joined on the panel by Brian Marita (USA), Julie Bryant (UK), Viviane Moro (France), Carlos Frühbeck (Spain), Sergio Finulli (Italy) and Artur Plutowski (Poland).
After the coffee break, I updated the participants on internal ITPG topics, the regional chairs reported news and projects from their regions and Federico Grossi introduced the next Italian Business Summit in Florence, Italy (30 May 2015). Before lunch, Robert Worthington (Canada) presented on “Cross-border financing using hybrid instruments” and Huub Kapel (Netherlands) on “Art 15 OECD/split salary”.
After lunch, Matteo Bedogna (Italy) shared his knowledge on “Transfer pricing litigation – case history with the Italian tax authority”. He was followed by Arlene Rochlin (Italy), who talked about “Compliance is elementary, my dear Watson” covering the elements of compliance for both accountants and lawyers.
After the coffee break, our host Santiago Lapausa (Spain) discussed the “Spanish Golden Visa and the Spanish tax reform”. Last but not least, Stanley Ruchelman (USA) informed on “Treaty Abuse under B.E.P.S. – L.O.B.? G.A.A.R? Both?” and Marc Nideröst (Switzerland) gave an “Update on planned major corporation tax reform in Switzerland”.
At 5.40 p.m. the meeting was closed and the participants were given a little spare time to relax. In the evening, the successful conclusion of the meeting was celebrated with complimentary drinks in the hotel lobby followed by dinner at Restaurante Buenaventura in the old town. At around midnight, more than half the attendees decided to go for another BEPS session, this time standing for “Beer Every Person Slurps”, in the nearby Irish the Claddagh bar with live music and live dancers in the shape of GGI members. After the pub closed, some went on to a discotheque near the beach with the hosts, where they danced into the small hours.
Those who had booked the golf training for beginners on Sunday morning went to the Monte Paraiso Golf Club in Marbella. In a beautiful surrounding, GGI members received individual and group training in putting and driving from golf professionals. After almost three hours, all became golf masters and five GGI teams battled against each other in a competition of two holes. All teams did very well and celebrated their newly learned skills in the open air restaurant of the golf club with a wonderful lunch of salads, paella and dessert accompanied by Spanish summer wine.
All feedback has been positive and the combination of high class technical tax topics, networking opportunities and city exploration was perceived as perfect by the majority of the participants. Our hosts summarised it brilliantly: “At the end, it is all about good friends having fun.”