Direct Tax Market Report Q3 2022

In our quarterly direct tax report, we usually summarise the events of the quarter in a neat and orderly manner. But, the last 3 months have been far from the norm in the world of tax, so it’s probably easier to ask what hasn’t happened?

The UK has appointed a new Prime Minister and Chancellor, who’ve rapidly brought in some of the most significant tax changes in decades. EY are shaking up the Big 4 world with their plans to split their audit and consulting units.

With almost daily radical changes, one could assume that this must be affecting the tax recruitment market? Well, encouragingly this isn’t the case. 

The good news: Over the last couple of months we’ve met with several Big 4 and mid-tier firms to discuss hiring plans. It is known that tax is a more stable area of recruitment in moments of economic uncertainty, so across the firms we’ve communicated with many will continue with their hiring plans in the sector, even if we hit a recession. This is certainly something to keep you optimistic! 

In the dawns of covid, most employers went into defence mode and abruptly halted hiring processes. What they have now learned is the damage this causes in the long run in the form of a nationwide candidate shortage. Only over recent months has this picture steadily improved. As stated above, tax recruitment is more stable than many other areas of recruitment, and in this climate, all signs point to the continued need for tax professionals. 

Employers are looking out for overseas talent again! Prior to Brexit, freedom of movement proved to be a powerful tool in recruitment strategy, particularly across international tax and transfer pricing. So when the UK left the EU, the candidate pool shrank. So although the Big 4 have generally been open to supporting visas since our departure, it’s great to see the mid tier firms following suit.

The tax recruitment horizon edging into the end of the year suggests that professional services firms are full steam ahead. Flipping a traditionally quieter period on its head could prove to be a great move heading into 2023.  

Where have the jobs been?

Within the Big 4, Senior Manager and Director vacancies have been the most prevalent. Areas such as corporate tax advisory, audit of tax, and tax compliance (corporate & international) have been the most frequent roles. 

One firm has sought to hire 110 tax professionals across August and September. A difficult task, but one that’s working. How are they doing it?

Well, this has been through a commitment to reviewing applications within 24 hours, and ensuring that the whole recruitment process is completed within 2 weeks. By doing this they are keeping candidates engaged, and demonstrates commitment on both sides. When other recruitment processes remain far longer, this system reflects greatly on them. 

Other hot areas in the market have been:

  • Transfer pricing – TP advisory specialists in particular. There’s been a lot of movement amongst top 10 firms and other specialist firms. A common theme for the high attrition has been the type of client work candidates have been exposed to. Generally, a lack of involvement in the most interesting projects etc.
  • Tax investigations/disputes – Although at a much lower frequency than other areas, there’s still a far higher demand when comparing with the usual amount of vacancies we observe. These roles are great options for those of you looking to make a move from another firm, or those taking that first step into practice from a tax authority. 
  • Sector specialism roles – The most advertised roles were in the financial services and insurance sectors. Interestingly, many firms with these specific teams are now offering greater degrees of flexibility, where one can also work in other sectors, for example; TMT, retail, oil & gas etc. This could lead to lower attrition rates, particularly if employees are looking to leave due to feeling pigeon-holed. 

An ever increasing and important topic

Diversity, Equality & Inclusion – In the coming weeks Harvey John’s DE&I report is will be live and ready for you to download. On the direct tax side, almost all briefings with top firms have involved discussions around this topic. Rightly so!

It’s refreshing to be asked what steps we take as recruiters to ensure we’re eliminating bias in our processes. On the other side, we’ve spoken with firms who have presented how they are trying to be more inclusive. Their incentives range from advertising their return-to-work schemes, to holding agencies accountable for the diversity of their candidates shortlists. DE&I can no longer be a secondary thought in a recruitment process.

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