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Lizanne Mentz of Sentinel International scoops global tax prize

30 July 2020 Sentinel International

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 Mentz of Sentinel International certainly walks the talk.

Participating in the Global Tax Treaties Commentaries (GTTC) Universities Project Competition was “an unbelievable journey” says Mentz, 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.”

What has she won exactly?

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?

Mentz and her teammate Waseem Ismail (a CA at SANNE and fellow UCT Master’s student) discovered that in South Africa’s treaties with 47 different developing countries there is “no discernible pattern”. Except for 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.”

Lifelong learners

Mentz was able to enter the competition thanks to Sentinel’s generous study incentives. The firm isn’t just funding her Master’s degree; they 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 Sentinel Director Coralea Zweig, the investment is a no-brainer, as it benefits Sentinel, their staff and, most importantly, their clients who are comforted by 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.”

For this reason, they offer similar study incentives to all employees who, in return, are required to present their latest learnings at internal workshops. The firm is structured so that experts from offices across the country work together to solve problems, thus maximising individual strengths.

Education is the only way

Sentinel is “a national fiduciary services company with global reach and expert knowledge on cross-border trust, tax and estate planning affairs,” says Director Dale Irvine who explains that his team of “super-specialists” formulates bespoke Legacy Plans which ensure that wealth is preserved for future generations and succession planning and tax mitigation strategies are correctly implemented. “Investing in education is the only way we can keep up with the many challenges of preserving generational wealth for South African families in today’s globalised world,” he adds.

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ASISA’s lobbying of the SARB to suspend Circular 15, which contained significant changes to foreign exchange controls. What is your take on this accusation?

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