May, 2008

With the onset of a severe credit crunch and general inflation issues, I can’t help but think that we are heading for a couple of difficult years ahead in the tax job market.

The Big Four have since the start of this year (2008) very much ‘cooled off’ on their recruitment activities, and the approval / sign off process for hiring tax candidates has become very lengthy. However at the time of writing, there is no evidence of redundancies in the tax divisions, but there have been announced redundancies in some of the Big Four’s M&A and corporate finance areas, where the work will clearly have dried up.

As for in-house tax teams, they seem to be largely unaffected, and the level of recruitment activity has not so far changed. This is mostly because a corporate group (versus professional services) can only recruit tax professionals for very well defined roles, and usually go through a structured approval process before the recruitment starts, so the hiring is more controlled. In-house tax recruitment is typically not driven by the mood in the market, but more by necessity of needing in-house tax resource. Through this credit crunch period, if the company or their sector is particularly exposed in that downturn, then tax jobs may be at risk, otherwise they will be fairly safe.

The exception to this may be within banking, as the banking / lending sector has been the source of the credit problems. Core in-house tax roles in banking should still be fairly safe, however middle and front office transaction-led tax roles will be more at risk.

Ultimately, the tax job market will be slower over the next 12-24 months, partly down to job sign-off issues, and also because of the basic fact that tax professionals may be more reluctant to move jobs while things are uncertain. If people are not moving in the market, then job vacancies are not being created, and so adding to an already sluggish market.