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Sector Insight - Taxation

February 2014

An encouraging stream of tax roles are being registered as the economy picks up and the Big 4 compete to secure the best talent in the marketplace.

The hiring market for tax professionals got off to a flying start in January 2014. At Hays Taxation, we have seen employers register a consistent flow of positions throughout January and the Big 4 accountancy firms are particularly active in the market. The most highly sought after tax professionals are newly qualified assistant managers but good opportunities also exist for senior managers and directors with a track record of bringing in work. Key areas of opportunity include corporate tax, international tax, VAT, R&D and expatriate/employee tax.

Besides recruiting from each other, the Big 4 will also consider candidates who come from Top 20 accountancy firms or who have experience of working in-house within the financial services sector or a blue-chip company and would like to return to the profession. The large firms’ hiring drives will create movement all the way through the profession since smaller firms will need to recruit to replace tax professionals who have moved on.

The financial services sector is hiring tax professionals to help it meet its compliance obligations, for example, in relation to the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. Demand is not as strong as in practice, however, since the sector is still trying to drive down costs. Where hiring takes place, it is often to fill a role that is seen as critical for compliance reasons. Meanwhile, employers are using contractors or secondees from the Big 4 to plug gaps on an interim basis.

Greater rigour around compliance and reporting is driving hiring of in-house tax professionals in both the FTSE and among owner-managed businesses. Within the FTSE 250, most of the roles that come up relate to corporate tax although there is also demand for VAT and transfer pricing specialists. Owner-managed businesses tend to look for generalists with a broad skill-set in tax. There are pockets of the UK where in-house tax professionals are particularly sought after including Aberdeen, Glasgow and the Midlands.

During 2013, demand for contract and interim tax professionals remained at a positive level, for example managing new legislative projects and covering maternity leave. That trend has continued into this year since employers often find it easier to get budget for temporary staff, especially if headcount reductions have taken place in other parts of their business.

Salaries for tax professionals have not increased significantly over the past year. Candidates who move jobs usually do so to secure career progression, rather than pay rises. But there are exceptions to this. For example, in 2013 employers in Aberdeen were offering salaries that were around 10-15% above those in Edinburgh and Glasgow to attract tax professionals to the city. With the expected recruitment drives in 2014 we forecast an uplift on salaries as the market begins to shift to being more candidate driven putting pressure on employees to secure the best talent.

There are traditionally more vacancies within taxation than professionals who are suited to fill them. Meanwhile, the cutback on graduate hiring during the recession is starting to be felt and, in general, individuals remain cautious about moving roles. Unfortunately for employers, this means that the shortage of candidates is likely to become more pronounced as 2014 progresses and business confidence grows. So staff retention will be an increasingly important issue this year, with counter offers set to become more common and employers reviewing the content of benefit and bonus packages.

To find out more about opportunities in taxation, visit our website or contact Ian Barker on 0203 465 0138