• 26 September 2019
  • Tax

Q3 2019: Market Insights for Indirect Tax & Tax Technology

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

What happened in Q3?

In many years of tax recruitment, this is perhaps the first time where we can say that hiring into the indirect tax and tax technology space actually accelerated throughout the summer holiday season. Good riddance to the days of warning candidates that everything slows down in the summer!

As with each quarter of 2019, the market trends in Q3 have fluctuated in parts and continued in others. The most notable upward trend is the vast number of tax technology opportunities available, which we’ve explored further below. Likewise, we’ve also seen some interesting geographical changes. As Table 1 indicates, the lion’s share of jobs in Q3 fell in the DACH region (growth of 29%), which is primarily attributed to a strong German market and a scattering of new positions in Austria and Switzerland. Whilst the UK market saw a 30% decline, many will be relieved to hear that BENELUX delivered 75% more vacancies compared to Q2.

Overall, Q3 saw new 110 vacancies released compared to the 117 we saw in Q2 and 98 in Q1, which once again reinforces that we have a very healthy employment market.

Table 1: New Indirect Tax & Tax Technology jobs (in-house)

Tax technology, tax technology, and more tax technology!

The advancement of technology in the tax arena has been the catalyst of speculation over the years, with copious perspectives on how the tax function will transform. Whilst we’re still very much in the infancy of a revolutionised landscape of tax recruitment, Q3 has certainly been a period of high growth and marks an important period in this transition.

Investment into transformation teams across the Big 4 continues to grow, as does the revenue these services are generating. As such, we’re seeing a huge demand in the Big 4 for specialist technology skills to cater for market forecasts. Equally in the tax software houses, recruitment has firmly been on the agenda across the summer months and there doesn’t appear to be any signs of this slowing down. With digitalisation of tax occupying much of the attention for in-house tax and finance teams, this growth in professional services is to be expected.

Perhaps the most notable upwards trend, however, is the 50% growth of tax technology roles in industry in Q3. Whilst still in the shadows of conventional tax jobs, the number of in-house opportunities with a pure technology focus (omitting hybrid roles) has continued to grow in 2019, with Germany, UK, and the Netherlands leading the way as the key destinations.

We will, no doubt, see this continue as we move into 2020 so, if you haven’t already, it’s worth reading about the importance of harnessing tax technology when it comes to progressing your tax career.

What were the trends at each level?

Table 2: What is the breakdown across each level?

  • Leadership grades - With just two Director level vacancies released this quarter, activity at the leadership level has been at poorest in 2019 (albeit this does come off the back of Q2’s spike in activity). Overall, the limited recruitment at these grades is consistent across Europe and it’s become an area where we’re eagerly anticipating an influx of opportunities. Perhaps the challenging political and economic times ahead as we near the UK’s October 31 deadline will be a calling for indirect tax leaders? 
  • Senior Manager - Although slightly more buoyant, recruitment here has been flat - but consistent - across 2019. In Q3, we experienced a 15% decline in the number of vacancies but this is compensated for by the continued demand for Managers. Geographically, boasting the largest number of Senior Manager opportunities was, yet again, Germany with signs of continued growth.
  • Manager - It's certainly been the year for mid-level in-house opportunities and Q3 boosted this trend with 9% growth, taking that to a total of 48 vacancies! Whilst there was a slight reduction on newly released jobs in the UK, these figures were bolstered by increasing activity in the DACH and BENELUX regions. Luxembourg remains very quiet but a number of requirements in Belgium and the Netherlands contributed to 125% growth in Q3 for BENELUX.
  • Assistant Manager - Demands for around the newly qualified / Big 4 Assistant Manager level dropped over the summer and, to some extent, there’s also been a gradual decline in interest for these vacancies. With in-house tax teams looking to bolster their compliance function, there are very few opportunities at this level that offer an advisory led role to appease those who might be swayed to move from practice to industry. Ultimately, the majority of in-house roles for those at circa 5 years experience are for VAT Compliance Team Leaders or hybrid VAT Specialists (which are still primarily compliance oriented).
  • Analyst - Again, the most buoyant grade of indirect tax - and the second highest demand - were for analysts. A closer look into the numbers, however, indicate a sharp decline in recruitment in the UK & BENELUX. The only exception, however, was the increased appetite for candidates with 2-3+ years experience which demonstrates how in-house teams are looking to upskill rather than bring onboard more junior candidates.

Table 3: How does Q3 compare to Q1 & Q2?

Conclusion

Despite the positive and negative variances that we’ve experienced this quarter, in many respects, we conclude with the same message as Q2: the European indirect tax and tax technology markets are very healthy. 

The most notable area of growth this quarter was clearly seen in the realms of tax technology and we are feeling this from all angles. Certainly amongst those with 1-5 years experience, a frequent question that candidates are asking our team is how they can successfully navigate their careers into this field. If you’d like to inquire about this, then please do give us a call.

As we move into the final quarter of 2019, our next ‘Market Insights’ will see us provide a deeper overview of the entire year, alongside some additional material that will keep you well informed with the indirect tax and tax technology market.

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

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*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.

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

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