Q1 2019: Markets Insights for Indirect Tax

Each quarter, our specialist Indirect Tax team monitors the number of in-house vacancies released onto the job market across Europe to provide you with a quarterly overview of recruiting trends. The data below provides a digestible snapshot to the in-house market from adverts posted directly from employers.*

*Note – we omit the number of confidential mandates that HJ are assigned or job adverts posted by other recruitment firms. It should also be highlighted that many vacancies go unadvertised due to confidential or highly sensitive searches.

What happened in Q1?

Q1 is traditionally one of the busiest recruiting quarters of the year as it, amongst other things, follows the holiday season where hiring is somewhat less prioritised! And for the UK & Ireland, this was certainly the case as the market grew by 50%!

In total, 69 new in-house vacancies were released onto the UK & Irish job market (compared with the 46 jobs in Q4). And with the spread of vacancies slightly evening from Q4, this has been an excellent time for New Year job seekers. A key takeaway in these findings is the sheer number of regional positions on offer, which equates to approximately 40% of the market.

But across the BENELUX & DACH region, the numbers were strikingly different. With a total of only 16 vacancies in BENELUX and 11 in DACH, the opportunities in mainland Europe have been extremely limited in comparison. One suspects the uncertainty over Brexit is taking its toll and recruiting will typically increase once the British Parliament agree on the terms of their departure from the EU. On the other hand, the high growth of UK jobs indicates that companies are gearing up for potential Brexit complexities and looking for specialist feet on the ground.

Note, however, that these numbers omit reposted vacancies from Q4. Particularly in the Netherlands and Belgium, several Q4’s vacancies came back onto the market, indicating that companies have struggled to close off pre-existing recruitment campaigns. This isn’t surprising with many employers becoming more savvy in their counter-offer pitches and candidates testing the market.

What were the trends at each level?

Key trends to note:

  • Leadership grades – Whilst this still represents the smallest proportion of the EU job market with only 3 more leadership positions added since Q4, an overview of the last 6 months is more cheerful as the total number of vacancies equals the whole of 2018. Whilst these numbers are still not worth celebrating, it is the first positive news we’ve been able to share! We’ve said it many times before, but our feeling is that this level will begin to flourish as Brexit agreements begin. But only time will tell…
  • Senior Manager – The market dropped nearly 3% in the UK, though this is a reflection of the higher volume of new roles preceding the Senior Manager grade. In the BENELUX and DACH however, the proportion of opportunities was healthier and it marks a turning point where the two Manager levels now overshadow the recruitment for Analysts. But as time goes on, this grade is becoming increasingly competitive with more active Director level candidates taking a more junior role due to the shortage of posts at their level.
  • Manager – Once again, the core of the EU market, representing one third of Q1’s job postings. Following suit of 2018, this is where businesses face the highest demand yet the also biggest recruiting challenge. With Manager candidates being resistant to exit their current roles – paired with a 14% increase in demand in the UK & Ireland – employers have broadened their hiring pool by seeking out strong Assistant Managers to step up into a more junior (and cheaper) managerial role. Although overall jobs were down in the BENELUX & DACH, this still represented 37.5% and 45.5% of the market, showing a steady demand throughout Western Europe.
  • Assistant Manager – This is a tale of two halves! On the one hand, opportunities grew by 43% in the UK & Ireland but, on the other hand, BENELUX came empty-handed here and DACH released only two vacancies! From our experience in Q1, this has been a challenging area to recruit (primarily in the UK). With the vast majority of these roles being regional – paired with the qualified Assistant Managers trying their luck for Manager roles and the remaining waiting to complete their CTA exams – finding candidates has been difficult. Being a cost-effective option to supervise compliance teams, these are attractive profiles in the UK but many of these candidates appear to be biding their time for more juicy industry roles.
  • Analyst – With technology being high on the agenda for global tax teams – yet still a minefield – the prerequisites are that tax teams must first be able to produce clean data. And with new e-invoicing and reporting requirements occupying the attention of tax departments, the proportion of Analyst and Senior Analyst recruitment remains very high! Although there was a drop in vacancies in BENLUX and no opportunities at all in DACH, there was 37.5% growth in the UK & Ireland. Many of these roles were European and EMEA-focused and it reflects how UK businesses are openly looking to bolster their teams with European specialists ahead of increasingly complex times in the world of compliance.

Looking at the total number of vacancies released in the UK & Ireland and the BENELUX market, there was a 7.5% increase overall but the reality is that high growth in the UK significantly propped up these numbers.

This is the first time we’ve reported on DACH, so comparisons cannot be made, however, this quarter’s market was lacklustre. Ultimately, recruitment here was more geared up to the manager grades with no opportunities existing for junior indirect tax professionals.

As we move into Q2 – and a new financial year for many – there are high hopes of another healthy market overall as hiring managers play with their fresh annual budgets and (dare I say it?) the British parliament comes to terms with a Brexit agreement.

Please also read our Financial Services (Indirect Tax) and Customs & Global Trade insights.


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

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