Before we focus on the current state of the tax technology market, with regards to jobs growth & demand, we should refer to the Reed job index for the broader jobs market:
Reed job index remains high – Reed produces a job index, a bit like the FTSE 100 but for advertised job levels. It gives an indication of demand for skilled workers in the UK. This was started in Dec 2009 at a base level of 100. As at November 2015, this was up to 278. More recently at Sept 2016, the index was at 291. This gives a year-on-year increase of around 5%, however this is a much slower rate of growth than had been previously seen from year-on-year comparisons over the last 3-4 years. Also, it is worth noting that the index still increased in the first quarter after the Brexit decision in June 2016, signalling that the vote result had not extinguished demand for people at that point.
Now looking into our specialist market - tax technology within the UK & Europe, here is an overview of what see as the key trends affecting jobs and employees during 2016 so far:
1. Big Four / consulting sector remains buoyant – we have seen a continuous demand during 2016 for hiring tax & tax technology specialists into the tax / indirect tax technology consulting teams of the Big Four. The focus has been on hiring Manager and below-Manager levels as these teams look to build out and hire specialists that can run projects and be very operational with the client work. Some, but not all the Big Four teams, are developing bespoke solutions for clients, particularly in the indirect tax area. So we continue to see a need for specific IT/software applications skills or some of the consulting teams.
In addition, we are seeing more activity from the firms outside of the Big Four i.e. consulting services on tax technology being provided by some of the Top 10 firms where they are starting to see a need from their large mid-cap clients. This has led to demand for candidates with both tax technology market experience and those that can develop clients and sell proposals etc.
2. Tax Data skills in demand – large-end corporate project work on tax systems has made a shift towards global tax data management, a progression from the more traditional tax software applications configured separately for corporate tax and indirect taxes. This is partly driven by the tax software houses that continue to develop sophisticated tax data systems. This is all in conjunction with companies having ongoing finance transformations within the ERP systems. As a result, there is increasing demand to see IT data skills for tax software roles, and in particular knowledge and experience of how tax sits within and works through a SAP / other ERP system. We expect this trend to rapidly develop over the next 5 years.
3. SAP dominance continues – SAP seems to remain the ERP of choice amongst groups in Europe, and as a result of most tax process / systems upgrades being embedded with the ERP system, there continues to be very strong demand for SAP functional experience. More specifically, roles require knowledge around set-up of FI CO modules for indirect tax / VAT, and knowledge of the specific tables for tax embedded in SAP. Knowing how to create and print a VAT report from SAP is not enough, and potential candidates need to be able to navigate around SAP at a much deeper functional level.
4. In-house recruitment picking up – we are seeing a growing, albeit slow growth, number of dedicated tax systems / technology roles being created in-house within large multinationals. The top tier (FTSE 20) and upper-end Global 500 groups now have some form of team dedicated to tax process / systems. It tends to be a small sub-set of group tax, and is often home-grown from people already within the group. We are still not seeing these sorts of jobs coming up frequently, and in terms of location they can often be based outside the UK in European HQ locations or at the same site as a European finance shared service operation. That said, based on the market activity level in 2016, we would envisage in-house tax technology roles to increase over the next 12 months.
Whilst macro political and economic factors, such as Brexit and the US presidential election result, could have an impact on the buoyancy of the market and number of jobs being approved, we still very much see the tax technology market as a strong growth area in the UK and Europe and so short term demand for people in this market will remain.