What is the landscape for tax recruitment in 2021?

The tax market is regaining its previous health and 2021 should hopefully be a great year for tax recruitment.

2020 has brought monumental changes to our day-to-day lives but, for me, what’s been impressive is that tax moves on. 

Of course, 2020 has not been as fruitful as previous years and numbers have shown a decline in appointments, new jobs, and a reduction in salary increases. However, there were very few teams who were furloughed or made redundant and tax recruitment never came to a standstill. Where we can take encouragement here is that, as a discipline, tax is resilient.

As we move into the New Year, here are my six predictions for what the European tax landscape will look like next year:

  • The rise of successful remote working from 2020 will bring confidence to employers. As such, this will create more remote opportunities, enabling employers to tap into a relatively disenfranchised demographic that has, for many years, been neglected in the typical recruitment processes.
  • Compliance and reporting will remain a huge priority for in-house tax teams and the lion’s share of recruitment will take place here. This doesn’t really buck the trend of 2019-20 as it’s now become a key priority for tax, finance, and IT teams but it will be a space of increased attention.
  • With many businesses hitting the panic buttons over Brexit, Q1 and Q2 are likely to be dominated by a frenzied drive for customs and global trade professionals, as well as their VAT counterparts. Already this year we’ve seen many firms and in-house tax teams try to bolster their customs expertise and these demands will well and truly continue throughout 2021.
  • The knock-on effects of Brexit – paired with the pause in hiring throughout most of 2020 – will lead to a surge in tax recruitment across the professional services sector. As well as the above, we’re likely to see a heightened need for personal tax and employment tax specialists, including more activity in dedicated life-sciences, technology, and consumer teams.
  • How we keep up with the ever-changing tax and regulatory requirements through technology and transformation will continue to be one of the biggest talking points in tax. Next year will see even more developments in how AI can strengthen the tax function and this will encourage more investment into roles that focus on data and processes. This will not necessarily dominate tax recruitment in 2021, but the volume will noticeably increase from previous years and buck the trend of tax hiring.
  • My prediction of what will take the spotlight in 2021, besides customs, is transfer pricing recruitment. The appetite to bolster in-house capabilities in TP has been gradually growing for the last couple of years. The continued investment in this space is clear and I expect to see a record number of TP in-house appointments across Europe.

Even with COVID-19 out of the picture, tax professionals will be incredibly busy in 2021. Throw in the implications of a global pandemic and you have yourself a busy year indeed.

Where we see the demand fall, grade-wise, is not yet clear. Of course, the market for senior tax professionals has been relatively dry for some time now – could we see better fortunes in 2021? Possibly. The demand for managers will likely continue as this seems to strike the sweet spot for many businesses.

Overall, we are set for an interesting year and I am excited to be working with old and new faces of the tax community. 

Alex Mann is an Associate Director of indirect Tax & Tax Technology at Harvey John

For expert advice on how to get the best out of your tax career, whether in a professional services firm or in-house, contact us today.

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