June, 2007

How good the market is depends on who you are talking to – if you are talking to a newly or recently qualified corporate tax accountant looking to make a first step out into industry after a Big 4 training contract, then they will say this is a great market. “I’m getting quite a lot of calls from recruiters at the moment”, for example. On the other hand, if you are talking to a Head of Tax of a commercial group desperately trying to recruit a good quality Tax Accountant or Tax Manager, you will hear a very different story. They would describe this as a very difficult market for trying to attract good quality tax professionals. “There seems to be no-one out there”, for example.

Basically, business is doing well at the moment, companies are posting healthy profits and are expanding in the UK and overseas. There is also plenty of M&&A activity, and all these factors are leading to a higher demand for corporate / international tax people, as we are seeing in the current climate. Also, with constantly changing accounting rules, and PLCs still getting their heads around a transition to IFRS tax accounting, big companies are crying out for solid tax compliance accountants. Unfortunately (for recruiters), these people that business is looking for are very busy doing good quality tax work for someone else. If they are being paid quite well, and have the promise of a handsome bonus in March/April time, why would they look to move jobs?

This is what the market is really like – plenty of opportunities, but tax professionals who are quite resistant to change.

Unless, of course, they get offered much bigger salaries. This causes some movement in the market, but by no means a frenzy of activity. Whilst some people are very money motivated, money is often not the only factor – in a lot of cases, career advancement, quality of work, interpersonal relationships, scope for flexible/home working will carry a lot of weight in the decision to move or stay put. Salaries are gradually going up in this market, but we don’t see huge steps up.

This state of the market also has a direct knock-on effect to the interim tax market. As a result of it talking longer to find a permanent Tax Manager, for example, Heads of Tax have to look at an interim solution. This is therefore an excellent market for tax contractors, particularly for those with experience in tax compliance, tax reporting and VAT. Hourly and daily rates are very good, an interim Tax Accountant commanding £25 – £35 per hour and an International Tax Manager commanding £40 – £70 per hour. I have seen a couple of Head of Tax calibre people commanding £1000 – £1,500 per day.

The other notable effect is that of tax automation, and the increasing use of tax software and technology to streamline a very complex tax compliance and accounting process. We are therefore now seeing tax technology / systems roles coming up in in-house tax departments, particularly with very large (top end FTSE 100) organisation. One or two of the biggest UK companies already have an established team (in-house) to devise and implement better tax reporting and compliance systems through use of IT technology. This part of the market is still very small, but a quickly developing one.