Athens, the cradle of western culture and civilisation, was the inspiring setting for this year’s International Tax & European Conference, held on 19-20 May at the Divani Palace Acropolis Hotel. Home to the great philosophers of the ancient world, the capital of Greece was a fitting location for delegates to come together, share knowledge and learn from each other’s experiences.
A huge success from start to finish, with a near record-breaking turnout of over 100 attendees, the conference offered delegates an array of discussion topics and thought-provoking presentations from some of Europe’s leading speakers in the fields of business, accounting and tax.
After opening addresses from our chairman, Bill Rucci, and the partners of the host firm, Action Auditing, delegates were honoured to have the opportunity to hear from two notable guest speakers: Panagiotis Giannopoulos, Deputy Chairman of the Hellenic Accounting & Auditing Standards Oversight Board and Professor George Panigyrakis of the Athens University of Economics and Business.
Moving on to technical issues, Hilde Blomme, Deputy Chief Executive of Accountancy Europe (formerly FEE), presented a highly informative update on the forthcoming regulations affecting accounting, tax and auditing in Europe, with particular emphasis on matters that will impact upon small and medium-sized enterprises and practices.
The conference was a first for new Russell Bedford CEO, Stephen Hamlet, who joined with Bill Rucci and retiring CEO Alan Bezzant to present an update on what has been happening in the network and what members can expect in the future.
The successful development of the network was much in evidence during this event, with introductions by new member firms from Paris (France), Eindhoven (Netherlands), Tbilisi (Georgia) and Casablanca (Morocco).
Our new Cypriot firms from Nicosia and Limassol introduced themselves and delivered a session on the use of Cyprus structures in international tax planning. Similarly, our new Swiss firms from Zurich/Zug and Lugano made introductory presentations and discussed tax and planning opportunities in Switzerland.
For the final session of the first day, thoughts turned to business development as Angus Farr of Training Counts outlined the opportunities to be gained by coaching clients and helping them to think more strategically about their businesses.
Something for everyone
Day two of the conference launched with a session on US tax changes and their impact on global taxpayers, delivered by Lenny Smith (RBF, Boston) – including, inevitably, an analysis of the ‘Trump effect’.
Guest speaker Philip Baker QC of Field Court Tax Chambers, London, then gave a comprehensive – yet thoroughly entertaining – round up of current international tax issues, including OECD developments, BEPS implementation, transparency, proposed EU directives, and recent case law.
With break-out sessions offering delegates a choice of topics, the second day provided for both international tax specialists and general practitioners. Workshops included: ‘The changing tax investigations landscape for private clients’ by Steven Pinhey (Lubbock Fine) and Kevin Hedrick (WBL, Atlanta); ‘The soft skills all accountants need’ by Angus Farr; ‘Cross-border taxation in the post-BEPS world’ by Victoria Willcox-Heidner and Stephan Strothenke (Tomik+Partner); and ‘Leveraging your RBI membership’ by Stephen Hamlet and Alan Bezzant.
Finally, Nigel Wood (SMP, Isle of Man) concluded the programme with a fascinating exposé on the use of international life assurance in asset protection and tax planning.
Exploring the wonders of Athens
Our hosts provided an extensive programme of activities for all attendees to enjoy throughout the two-day conference.
Non-delegates took a guided walking tour each day, visiting the world-famous Acropolis, the ruins of the ancient Agora, and the historic Plaka district of the city.
Friday night’s dinner was held in the Roof Garden restaurant on top of the conference hotel – with the spectacular sight of the Parthenon as a backdrop.
On the final evening, the entire group embarked on a sightseeing tour and a visit to the Acropolis Museum, before enjoying an authentic ‘Greek night’, with traditional food, folk music and dancing at the Neos Rigas tavern.
Many thanks and congratulations to all the team at Action Auditing who coordinated an impressive itinerary for both delegates and non-delegates, and delivered a truly memorable event.