It’s that time of the year!
Holiday season is over, people are back to work, goals for the new year are set and budgets for the year are being approved!
Since the last quarter of 2023, we have seen the tax job market exploding.
As budgets are likely to be fixed in the coming weeks, there could be a lot of questions regarding hiring an in-house tax specialist, from a CFO’s perspective.
- How can a tax specialist add value to the business?
- Can the tax work be handled internally by the finance and accounting teams
- Once the Corporate Tax implementation is over, would there be sufficient work to keep a fully dedicated tax specialist engaged?
- Would it be more cost effective to engage with external consultants rather than investing in an in-house tax function?
- What are the salary benchmarking standards?
- What should be the KPIs for a Tax role?
Through this article, I would like to touch upon the above points and share insights based on my discussions with CFOs and Heads of Tax.
Hope this article answers a lot of your questions and guides you through the decision-making process, particularly if this is the first time you are thinking of hiring a tax person within the business.
Tax Function - Reimagined
Gone are the days when the tax function is treated as an extended responsibility of the finance and accounting teams.
UAE is no longer a stranger to taxes and the country is gradually inching towards international best practices in tax.
The newness of taxes in this region is all the more reason to ensure that the businesses are ready to accept the change and transform the way of doing business.
The role of a tax specialist has evolved and it is much broader than mere submission of returns or compliance with regulatory aspects.
Going forward, with the increasing emphasis being placed on OECD BEPS and ESG, tax planning and tax reporting will be a key focus area for businesses dealing with cross border transactions.
Traditionally, tax has been thought of as a back-office function. But businesses need to realize that tax is very dynamic and impacts every area of the organization and it should no longer be regarded as a standalone, independent function.
Tax can impact –
- Sales & Pricing strategy
- Vendor management
- Supply Chain
Businesses should not underestimate the importance of creating a robust tax awareness program across different departments.
“With the tax landscape in the UAE now comparable to many matured tax jurisdictions in the world, many businesses now view the creation of in-house tax teams as downright essential, and rightly so.
Regional tax teams have raised the bars significantly and double down on their role as compliance guardians and strategic partners, intricately woven into the fabric of overall business strategy. As guardians of compliance and architects of tax strategy, they play a crucial role in steering supply chain decisions, with profound implications for operational profitability.”
- Nitin Agarwal, Director of Taxation at Majid Al Futtaim Retail
What role does a tax specialist play in a business –
An in-house tax professional helps with -
- Developing the tax policy and the tax governance framework
- Working closely with the management to develop a Tax strategy
- Group-wide awareness of taxes and training programmes
- Robust documentation
- Ensuring tax regulatory compliance
- Being a point of contact between the external consultants and different internal stakeholders
- Liaising with government authorities in case of audits, etc.
According to Nibale Hamdan, Tax Director of L’Oreal Middle East (GCC, Levant, Morocco & Pakistan Region)–
“It is very important to have an in-house tax function. From laying down the tax framework, to working with CFO on tax strategies, knowing your tax rights, managing internal and external stakeholders, managing tax audits, liaising with different departments for cross border transactions including M&A, an internal tax specialist touches upon different aspects of the business.”
“Tax upskilling and training outside the tax function is important i.e. running workshops and training programs across the organisation as different stakeholders must have the tax knowledge to be able to handle their areas of operations.”
In the coming years, tax disputes and litigation are going to be on the rise as the tax laws mature.
For large corporates, it becomes even more important to have a well-established tax function in place as it is not worth risking its reputation.
External consultants or in-house tax function?
To my mind, this is not a question of either-or, as both are equally important in their own ways.
Given the tax laws are still evolving, tax advisors are able to provide an unbiased view and advise businesses on best practices based on their extensive experience in different jurisdictions.
But at the same time, this does not dilute the importance of having an internal tax advisor.
An in-depth knowledge of the business is crucial for identifying the key risk and impact areas, which, at times, could be a limitation of an external consultant.
This is highly relevant in case of specialized areas of tax like Transfer Pricing. Transfer Pricing is a classic case where both in-house and external consultants can work in synergy.
“The modern corporate landscape demands dedicated and skilled in-house tax business partners. While waiting for regional finance talent to catch up, the winning formula may lie in this blend of internal expertise and external support—a dynamic strategy ensuring compliance and strategic finesse.”
- Nitin Agarwal, Director of Taxation at Majid Al Futtaim Retail.
I fully appreciate that developing an in-house tax function would require investment and commitment on part of the management. If we were to do a cost-benefit analysis, the benefits would surely outweigh the costs in the longer run.
With a growing focus on ESG, tax reporting is gaining a lot of importance and an in-house specialist would contribute towards this immensely.
Tax technology is going to be the future of taxes. There have been tremendous developments in automation and digitalization of the tax compliance and reporting processes.
To cope up with these changes and to ensure a successful implementation of tax technology projects, there has to be a tax person who would act as a link between tax advisors and internal IT departments.
*The figures are indicative and may vary based on the size of the organizations, benefits offered etc.
A CFO’s perspective
Tim Kroemer, CFO at Ecolog International says –
“As a multinational company operating in over 40 countries, we recognize the dynamic nature of global tax frameworks, particularly in the UAE. Historically, our tax strategy heavily relied on external advisors. However, with the ever-evolving tax rules, we realize the need for a more proactive, strategic approach.
In response, we have appointed a dedicated Tax Manager. This strategic move signifies our commitment to a cohesive and optimized tax management approach. We aim to not only ensure compliance but also identify and capitalize on tax structuring opportunities. By fostering more efficient collaboration with third-party advisors and strengthening relationships with tax authorities, we anticipate a comprehensive transformation in our tax management practices.
This shift aligns with our vision for excellence, and we are excited about the potential impact on our organization's financial resilience and global competitiveness. Our goal is to be at the forefront of innovation and optimization, ensuring that we maximize opportunities while maintaining the highest standards of compliance.”
Investing in a Tax function : Points to ponder
One may wonder whether there is sufficient work to keep a tax person busy, once the hue and cry of the Corporate Tax implementation settles?
Firstly, it may be noted that implementation of Corporate Tax would not signify the end of a tax person’s duties. This is just the beginning.
Based on the observations by tax advisors, this will be followed by corporate restructuring, tax planning, documentation, submission of the first Corporate tax return etc. To add to this, we anticipate e-invoicing to be implemented in the UAE by 2025 and introduction of BEPS Pillar 2.
We predict that tax is definitely going to keep the entire tax ecosystem on its toes!
From a CFO’s perspective, the decision whether to invest in a tax function largely depends on the nature of the business and it is an important point to be considered by CFOs while approving the budget for a tax role, in order to avoid a “hire to fire” policy.
Generally, large diversified businesses having regional or global operations must consider having a tax function.
For smaller businesses with mainly UAE based operations, it may be more convenient and cost-effective to outsource and engage tax advisors.
Based on my discussions, I have also noticed that CFOs are open to hiring a person who can handle a hybrid responsibility of tax, accounting and treasury, in case they do not anticipate a tremendous work load in tax in future.
Interestingly, I also foresee a potential demand for contract-based roles for independent consultants who would be working as an internal consultant for a limited period (which can be renewed as required).
“The future belongs to those who prepare for it today”
If you have not already thought of setting up a tax function, do it now!
Assess the business needs and follow a tailored approach that best suits your business.
Disclaimer : The views expressed by the contributors are purely personal