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The market for tax professionals has been steady, and recently it has shown more signs of life
The demand for replacements has picked up as organisations realise that natural attrition strategies are burdening remaining team members with heavy workloads. Activity has been greatest in practice, although the in–house market has been warming up.

Nevertheless, salaries and benefits have remained fairly static across the sector, both in London and in the provinces, over the past 12 months. It is unusual for a candidate to secure a large pay rise when making a move although exceptions exist, such as the demand for niche skillsets and the ability to win new business or drive change. Accountancy firms have typically offered increases of 2%–3% in line with inflation while bonuses are still being paid at a lower level. Certain firms are offering more in overall benefit packages.

In such a broad market, it is inevitable that some tax professionals will have more opportunities than others. VAT experts are sought after by financial services employers, which see indirect taxation as a way to save money. Those who have experience of insurance premium tax are also needed. Meanwhile, the implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act has heightened demand for operational tax specialists to make sense of the US rules and assess their impact on financial institutions. Non–domicile taxation and the new Patent Box tax break for research and development activities also require particular expertise.

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Aggressive corporate tax planning has taken a back seat in light of public opinion, the tough stance taken by HM Revenue & Customs and the proposed General Anti–Avoidance Rule. Corporate employers expect their tax professionals to be commercial, forward–thinking and integrated into the business so they put a heavy emphasis on personal qualities during the interview process. Firms are investing in compliance staff to carry out self–assessment work and some have looked to grow market share by hiring directors and partners who either excel technically or have a good track record of winning new business.

Organisations in the provinces are wary of pushing for extra resource, given that the economic outlook remains challenging with some in–house teams perhaps looking to reduce their head count and increase efficiencies by making more use of shared service centres.

The market for tax professionals is likely to remain steady for the foreseeable future with replacement hiring being the reason for most activity, however changes in the economy and legislation will also bring opportunities for development in tax, resulting in hires.

View this year's Accountancy & Finance Salary Guide.