January, 2011

The second half of 2010 felt like the economic recovery was well under way, after the technical recession concluded in early 2010. Coming into 2011, there is the hope that the recovery momentum will continue throughout the year, leading to a busier jobs market. Typically the employment market will lag the behaviour of the broader economy by 12-18 months when coming out of a recession, so history may show us that by mid-2011 we could be over the worst. That said, the UK recovery will undoubtedly be somewhat slower this time than in previous recessions, leading to a slower improvement in the private sector job market.

So what does this look like in our tax market? ‘What’s the market like?’ can often prompt a different answer, depending on whether you are asking a tax job seeker or a hiring head of tax. At the time of writing, the candidate is seeing a small number of opportunities relevant to their background, but is by no means inundated, and it could easily take a 3 – 6 month period to find and secure the best opportunity for their career. On the hiring manager side, there seems to be some good candidates out there, but nothing like the levels of available candidates that was seen during 2009. Also in a number of cases now, when an offer is made to a candidate, it is much more likely that a counter-offer will be made by their current employer. These effects seems very consistent with a recovering job market, from the recruiter perspective.

In terms of what we are seeing in the commercial tax market (i.e. in-house tax departments), tax teams seem to be quite stable, with quite a low volume of roles coming up. This should increase gradually as we progress into 2011. The market for the tax contractor, performing compliance and year-end type work seems to be slightly better, compared to 12 months ago. The senior end in-house tax market (Head of Tax level) seems very quiet, although that can often be the case in any market due to natural turnover being very low for that echelon of the market. Increasing transactions / M&A activity in the commercial world, and how tax teams will change their size and structure as a result should lead to more roles coming through.

The practice tax market, particularly across the Big Four is now coming back quite strongly, with many tax departments in the top firms now hiring. This is particularly the case in areas such as indirect taxes, transfer pricing and employment taxes, and where there is a corresponding scarcity of candidates. Corporate tax teams are also now making some strategic hires at the senior end.

This is now a tax job market with more confidence, but not overly bullish. Most certainly a good market for tax specialists to review their career and make a strategic change if they feel the time is right personally.