Harvey John’s Indirect Tax Newsletter 2016

After a busy Q3, it’s been a positive start for Harvey John going into 2016’s final quarter (though admittedly quite a distracted start, too, with everyone concerned and asking questions about one thing… Donald Trump Brexit).

Since the early hours of 24 June when the first of many news notifications hit my iPhone, delivering (in mass) the referendum results and reactions, the Brexit narrative has consolidated pace and undoubtedly woven itself into the fabric of indirect tax recruitment in the UK.

Whilst the indirect tax sector has traditionally been one to thrive on change, recruitment into this space across 2016 has ultimately been a tale of frustration for some and opportunism for others.

The build-up and confirmation of Brexit have undoubtedly impacted hiring trends across the UK’s indirect tax space – noted in my Q2 Newsletter (here if you missed it). Despite signs of improvement, these trends have largely prevailed across Q3 and Q4 as we wait for more clarity on what the UK’s exit from the EU will look like upon negotiations.

So what are the trends?
  • The market remains buoyant with an ongoing demand to identify talent and leadership at the senior level across the UK.
  • Continued confidence amongst many UK boutiques / independent firms also making key hires across the senior grades.
  • Perhaps the most noticeable difference is the emergence of more Manager vacancies, particularly across the top 10 & 20 firms.
  • Tax technology demands are rising – particularly amongst the top 6 firms – making a viable move for many candidates from an industry background to try their hand in the practice world.
 Commerce & Industry:
  • The market continues to provide opportunities in the Compliance & Analytical arena, with more Manager level roles emerging outside of London.
  • As with 2015, tax technology demands and the implementation of automation are taking centre stage in shaping both interim and permanent recruitment, with many hybrid and pure technology roles becoming available.
  • The volume of UK in-house roles at the strategic/advisory level is still limited, which has been one of the aches and pains for candidates across 2016. There are, however, signs of improvement with more Director vacancies starting to emerge.

The shortage of senior in-house positions throughout 2016 has been a frustrating topic for some. How will things change? Ultimately, time will tell. One would assume (and hope), though, that we’ll soon see more demands for coordinative/strategic advisory work coming in as global businesses in the UK will be looking to future-proof their teams through ‘uncertain times’ and, strategically, remain ahead of the game.

Tax Services:

Meanwhile, in VAT compliance, things continue to look strong with most of our clients saying they’re onboarding more customers/clients than ever!
Now seems an excellent time for those with 2-5 years of EU VAT experience to explore the market with many businesses reevaluating their salaries and job descriptions to attract these highly demanded compliance specialists.

It would be very surprising if the compliance market didn’t remain strong for the foreseeable future. The consensus out there seems to be that uncertain times equal more complexity and more complexity equals greater need & reliance.

And with last week’s High Court ruling against the UK government – stating that MPs must vote on invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – this need in the compliance market may continue to rise as the provisional Brexit date of April 2019 is likely to be delayed (and subsequently the UK’s departure from the EU VAT regime).

How will the market change from here?

Whilst I must remember that I’m a recruiter and not a clairvoyant, my feeling is that – in the mid-to-long term future – we’ll see an increased demand for senior EU indirect tax specialists in the UK.

With the triggering of Article 50 looming, a key priority for global businesses looking to keep their HQs in the UK will surely be to avoid alienating themselves from the EU single market. And with the prospect of UK-trained VAT professionals potentially losing their daily EU VAT exposure in years to come, importing EU experts will likely aid a significant skills gap that encroaches on the UK market.

It’s certainly been an unusual few months throughout the Summer but it hasn’t taken long for the ‘business as usual’ confidence to creep back into the psyche of the UK hiring managers. And with indirect tax often being a sector that is adaptive to economic change, we’re hopeful that these positive trends will continue across 2017 and that the lagging space for senior in-house recruitment will ‘pick up’.

Alex Mann is a Director in the Tax Division at Harvey John.

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