Breaking New Ground

The FSTC 2023 started with the welcome words of Ali Kazimi from Hansuke. After a brief review of the current political situation in the world, Ali Kazimi explained the challenges and issues which the financial industry is facing today and announced the conference sessions which will focus on those topics. Again, similar to last year, the conference was built as a series of panel discussions rather than teaching-style lectures. This provided an excellent platform for a very broad spectrum of experience exchange and allowed for the analysis of topics from different angles and perspectives. The audience participated very actively in all sessions by asking many very sophisticated questions from practice and discussed possible solutions together with the panelists. This significantly increased the practical value of every single panel discussion.

The first panel discussion dealt with today’s challenges and issues related to EU WHT reclaims. A panel of leading international experts, Steffen Gnutzmann from WTS Global as the moderator, Alexandre Maitrot de la Motte from the University of Paris, Jeroen Van Der Wal from Taxology and Rebecca Wilmott from JP Morgan discussed the legal and practical aspects of reclaiming discriminatory EU withholding taxes suffered on portfolio investments. EU Member States had introduced strict documentation and substantiation requirements for the eligible claims to be accepted. It was again very clear that despite the EU initiative for standardisation and simplification of the withholding tax reclaim procedures in the EU, better known under the acronym FASTER, there are still many unanswered questions out there. The most frequently mentioned concerns were still related to harmonisation of the procedures within the EU – with a clearly demonstrated concern to end up with 27 different documents and 27 different definitions which would have to be submitted to 27 tax authorities within the EU.

In the next panel, Jessalyn Dean led through the session as a moderator and Awa Diouf from the Institute of Development Studies, Danish Mehboob from Bloomberg Tax and Paul Aplin, former President of the ICAEW discussed the taxation of digital financial services and its impact on the taxation of traditional financial services. One of the most intense discussions developed around the question of whether there should be a difference between the taxation of digital and traditional financial services. After the very intensive discussions the panelists came to the final conclusion that it is inevitable that tax policy and administrative decisions must balance competing interests including fairness, inclusion and international development.

The Half-Time Summary: EU 1 – 0 UK sounds rather like an announcement for a football match than for a tax discussion. The Brexit discussion at the FSTC 2023 conference led by Tim Sarson from KPMG and joined by Patrick Reidy from Capital Group, Tapiwa Mashingaidze from Alcentra and Dr. Kunka Petkova from the German Federal Ministry of Finance was really a very interesting one and again raised the questions of whether the Brexit was the right decision for the UK and how it has influenced the development of the UK’s economy and especially the financial industry since then. We have heard some critical words on the Brexit strategy and economic development of the UK in general, but the panelists’ opinion regarding the financial industry has remained unchanged – the opinion that since Brexit London’s position as a financial centre has been marginally eroded in only some of the business lines (i.e. as the banking hub for the euro area), but in its role as an international financial centre, London has retained its top position.

After the lunch, which provided a very pleasant opportunity for networking, we continued with no less interesting topics compared to the morning sessions. Helen Whiteman from the Chartered Institute of Taxation moderated the panel with Inga Nitsche from iCapital, Dr. Kunka Petkova from the German Federal Ministry of Finance and Michel Braun from WTS Germany as the panelists. The first panel discussion in the afternoon had a very provocative title: “ChatGPT Eats Tax Professionals for Breakfast”. This topic drew huge attention of the audience and led to some very emotional discussions about the role of tax professionals today and their perspectives in the future. The question of whether the practice of tax is art or a science was raised. Since many claimed that only creative jobs would survive the onslaught of AI, the panel discussed how to survive as a tax professional in the world of automation, boosted productivity and AI. After a very lively discussion in the panel, complemented with a very strong involvement of the audience, the panel came to the conclusion that “ChatGPT has an insatiable appetite, but it’s not quite ready to eat us yet”.


One of the further hot topics on the agenda was the tax integrity across the financial services industry. Ali Kazimi moderated the panel with Sara Jespersen from the Copenhagen Business School and Sandra Martinho Fernandes from EBRD. The panelists discussed tax integrity as the final frontier of the tax profession and agreed that adopting human-centred tax integrity should be seen as essential in all firms. They should adopt it and develop approaches to reduce risks of misconduct and to foster genuine engagement, robust governance and a positive corporate reputation.


The last two sessions of the conference dealt with the taxation of private equity industry where the jurisdictional competition plays a very big role and the impact of current regulations and initiatives on the tax departments. Both sessions caused a strong involvement of the audience, which again proofed the very high relevance of all topics discussed at this conference.


The 5th edition of the FS Tax Conference also proved to be a highly desirable and robust platform for tax professionals, academics, tax authorities, journalists and leading industry practitioners for the exchange of information and opinions on current topics in the field of taxation from different angles and perspectives. It provided some in-depth insights into the practice of taxation, its daily challenges and issues and gave some orientation for the future.

SDS as a renowned technology and software solutions provider in the area of international tax and regulatory reporting for FATCA, CRS, QI, OECD TRACE and WHT with long-standing experience serving global financial institutions was delighted to sponsor this excellent industry event for the fifth consecutive year.

Observation by:

Hrvoje Kajzer

Feel free to contact me anytime for further information, an expert chat or any discussion about the topics mentioned above.

Taxation in Times of Crisis

The event was aimed at financial services professionals keen to engage in and learn more about the most important developments in the tax industry. The conference provided a fantastic opportunity to take part in debates and discussions with the most qualified and knowledgeable professionals.

The conference consisted of a series of four webinars held Monday through Thursday and a networking event on Thursday evening, culminating in the in-person conference on Friday.

Four webinars during the week covered some of the topics currently most discussed:

  • The Great Tax Resignation picked up on the topic of attracting and retaining specialist tax staff by designing new career paths to make the workplace more inclusive, personally satisfying, and adaptive in order to meet the challenges brought about by digitisation, globalisation, and sustainability.
  • In Tax, Tech, what’s going on? panelists discussed the challenges for the industry caused by the exponential growth of digital asset investment as well as new challenges for global tax authorities.
  • In the webinar Digitising WHT Reclaims, the panel including Susanne Rauscher-Nwokedi from SDS covered topics related to digitising the withholding tax reclaims with a look at the EU’s withholding tax relief system and a review of the implementation of the OECD TRACE regime in Finland.
  • The webinar O Tax, Where Art Thou? provided an overview of tax as a topic at the top of the agenda worldwide, driving decisions on policy, trade, strategy, and sustainability, with tax leaders facing new challenges such as rapidly changing compliance obligations and the necessity of contributing to the ESG agenda.

On the morning of the conference day, we observed a bit of a rush hour feeling at the registration desk, where a crowd of attendees, speakers, and panelists came to pick up their name badges.

The opening words were spoken by Ali Kazimi of Hansuke, who welcomed all attendees and especially the main sponsors WTS Global and SDS.

The aim of the conference – with most sessions being held as panel discussions rather than classic lectures – was to encourage the audience to ask questions, comment on what was said in the panels, and actively engage in the discussions, which was successfully implemented during the entire conference day.

The sessions of the conference were very much influenced by current events and affairs, thus again covering the cum-ex affair, which was named the single biggest destroyer of trust between financial institutions and tax authorities. In this case, everything failed – from internal controls and compliance within financial institutions and external auditors (Big Four) to regulators and tax authorities. As a matter of fact, this had and still has a huge influence on policies and the scrutiny of all tax authorities and regulators.

Since the loss of trust is seen as a direct consequence of the cum-ex affair, several sessions tackled the question of restoring trust in the system with topics around audit failures and audit reforms, ESG challenges, the break-up of the Big Four, wealth tax, etc.

Two exciting topics with enormous audience participation were global tax management and the question of how much tax transparency really exists. When talking about tax transparency, you cannot avoid discussing international reporting regimes implemented in the last decade, such as FATCA, AEOI, Common Reporting Standard (CRS), MDR, DAC 6, etc., and all other regulatory and reporting obligations which financial institutions have today. However, it turned out that the crucial question is not whether you have your regulatory reporting process in place and formally fulfill your reporting obligations, but how to deal with those obligations and how to enforce them.


  • This conference was a gathering of industry specialists, experts, tax authorities, and academics. It provided a comprehensive overview of the current hot topics in the tax industry and the challenges it is facing.
  • All the topics discussed in the four webinars, the presentations, and the panel discussions on the conference day are more than challenging for the entire financial industry as well as for the technology providers. However, they are more relevant than ever.
  • As a leading provider of software solutions in the area of international tax and regulatory reporting for FATCA, CRS, QI, and OECD TRACE, SDS was delighted to support and sponsor such an excellent industry event.

Observation by:

Hrvoje Kajzer 

Feel free to contact me anytime for further information, an expert chat, or any discussion about the topics mentioned above.

The Future of Tax – A Review.

Ali Kazimi, Managing Director of Hansuke, welcomed delegates and opened the conference with remarkable words emphasising the positive and confident tone and mood of the 2021 conference.

The conference started with a panel discussion about withholding taxes across Europe, where experts drawn from technology, consulting and investment management industries supplemented by trade association and tax authority perspectives explained the latest taxation developments to ameliorate the reclamation processes. The discussion focused on the beneficial ownership challenges, reclaim restrictions post Cum-Ex, the growing demand for standardisation of EU tax relief systems and associated costs, and the promise of blockchain solutions. Among the panellists was also one of the experts from SDS, Wolfgang Göb.

The next session brought the headline of the conference “The Future of Tax” on the table.
The expert panellists discussed the current state of affairs in the aftermath of the Pandora Papers, the irreparable damage that tax data leaks are doing to trust in the fairness of the taxation systems and which steps are being taken to fix a broken system. The panel included speakers from tax authorities, financial firms and pressure groups, who considered and discussed the efficacy of tax transparency measures – from enactment to enforcement. Apart from the fact that this is a very specialised subject, it is also a very emotional one because morality also matters in taxation.

The afternoon was dedicated to discussions related to topics around restoring the trust in a society of post-truth, alternative facts, fake news, data leaks and whistle blowing as well as challenges regarding cryptoassets and their taxation.

In general, we experienced a very active communication via the chat function of the virtual conference during all sessions and especially during breaks.

The second conference day started with a panel discussion attended by Paul Tang, chair of the EU Parliament’s tax committee, Will Fitzgibbon, a well-known investigative journalist from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), and Abigail McGregor, from LexisNexis UK, about the fundamentals and paramount importance of our tax system. This was followed by a review of the biggest financial leaks over the past decade, including the recent Pandora Papers. It was a very interesting and eye-opening session which provided some incredible insights into preliminary investigation work that resulted in revealing the Cum-Ex files and Pandora Papers.

Apart from all the tax topics that dominated both days, we also heard a discussion about the most recent developments in building an inclusive workplace which touched some very hot current topics like inclusion, physical security and mental health, purpose, racism, sexism, lack of motivation and some other subjects on the list of employers’ expectations.

The OECD’s BEPS project was recognised as a game changer that reshaped the transfer pricing outcome. Subsequently, updates on administrative approaches to avoiding and resolving disputes were provided.

Two afternoon sessions focused on the future of collectives and building Funds On Chain by using distributed ledger technologies.

The final session of the conference was related to the topics around restoring trust. The panellists discussed challenges faced by financial firms active in international business, which includes dealing with offshore financial centres and tax havens.

In my opinion, it was a very successful tax conference which, despite the fact that it was organised as a virtual event, succeeded to gather high-profile tax professionals, representatives of tax authorities as well as solution providers and advisory firms. The quality of all presentations and panel discussions was at the expected very high level. Although it was “just” a virtual conference, there was a lot of interaction during all sessions. I was very positively surprised by very strong activity of the entire audience, since the traffic on the chat channels provided by the event platform was very high on both conference days. This significantly contributed to the quality of all sessions.

Observation by:
Hrvoje Kajzer

Feel free to contact me anytime for further information, an expert chat or any discussion about above-mentioned topics.