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Look, the picture’s brighter

8 Apr 2010

Tax Advisor

Paul Thomas, Regional Director at Hays Senior Finance, comments:

"Whilst the tax recruitment market has suffered as a result of the economic downturn and hires have decreased as a result, we have certainly seen some signs of recovery since the start of the year and there is renewed confidence among employers and candidates. Businesses that have implemented recruitment freezes are now beginning to open their doors to new hires once again. Six to twelve months ago if professionals were lost through natural attrition they would not be replaced, it is now much more common for employers to immediately start recruiting for a replacement. Increasingly, we are seeing more candidates actively looking for new roles whereas previously the candidate pool was largely limited to professionals who had been made redundant or were looking to move from a contract to permanent role.

Recruitment processes are getting tougher in light of the wider pool of talent and employers are finding it harder to get authorisation for hires. Recruitment is therefore taking place but slowly, as businesses become increasingly strict on the competencies and skills they require.

Temporary vs permanent

The temporary recruitment landscape paints a different picture from the permanent; temporary workers are struggling to find work as employers look to invest in their permanent headcount but try to make cost cuttings when it comes to their short-term hires. We are seeing this in both direct and indirect tax positions. In financial services, there is slightly more of a demand for temporary when compared to elsewhere whilst in places there is demand for tax specialists with more niche experience such as transfer pricing and VAT but candidates with such specific backgrounds tend to be few and far between. The immediate feeling however is that the permanent workforce is now faring better in general than the temporary market.

Demand

The need for tax candidates within the profession has increased since the beginning of the year, particularly within the Big 4 and Top 10 firms. Applicants most in demand are in niche areas such as VAT and expatriate tax; two areas that typically suffer from a shortage of strong candidates. There is also an increasing need within all types of firms for applicants with strong corporate tax and personal tax experience although employers are very specific about recruiting professionals with relevant experience and who are CTA qualified.

The in-house tax recruitment market, which generally held up better than the profession last year, has also enjoyed an increase in job flow over the past few months. Transfer pricing candidates are sought after whilst there is also, similar to the profession, a need for strong VAT candidates - particularly those with financial services or international VAT experience.

Despite the government making it compulsory for every company to have its own senior accounting officer there hasn't been an increased demand for these professionals, instead we are seeing this responsibility falling to FDs or other in-house professionals who already have some responsibility for systems reporting and accounting.

Salaries

Salaries are holding firm in most areas of permanent recruitment but there are still a number of salary freezes and candidates moving roles are no longer looking to secure a significant pay increase. In some cases employers are prepared to pay a premium for candidates but this tends to be few and far between and typically only applies to candidates who fit the brief exactly and work in candidate-short areas such as expatriate tax and VAT.

Overall we are looking at a brighter picture. Employers are opening their doors and some optimism has pervaded the market with candidates considering their next move. Although it will be some time before we can confidently refer to an upturn, for now there are positive signs in the market.