As we are in the midst of Q2 of 2023, I would like to reflect on my experiences and share my thoughts on the tax recruitment in the first quarter of 2023.
Q1 was my first full quarter after joining Alchemy Search 6 months ago. It has been a mixed bag, full of highs 🔼 and lows 🔽
From a tax recruitment perspective, I am pleased to see a positive change. When I look back at my days as a VAT professional in the UAE, I feel that we have come a long way. Businesses have accepted that taxes are here to stay and this is evident from the steady upward trend in tax roles 📈 .
The article covers the points below -
✅ An overview of the tax recruitment landscape in the UAE
✅ Tax recruitment trends in different areas of Tax such as Corporate Tax, VAT and Transfer Pricing
✅ Current trends of tax opportunities in Consulting and In-house roles
✅ Opportunities in KSA
✅ Way forward
Hope you find this article insightful! It is an interesting read, not just for 𝗧𝗮𝘅 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗳𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹𝘀, but also for 𝘀𝗲𝗻𝗶𝗼𝗿 𝗙𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗳𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹𝘀 who are looking at setting up a Tax function in their organization.
In the last 5 years, there has been a tremendous change in the tax landscape in the UAE. This country has witnessed the introduction of multiple taxes and regulatory requirements including VAT, Excise Tax, ESR, CBCR and now the upcoming Corporate Tax.
The perception that the tax function is an extension of the accounting and finance function is now changing, and businesses are realizing the importance of having tax specialists on board.
Since the beginning of 2022, there has been a steady upward trend in the tax recruitment space. In this article, I would like to share my experience of the first quarter of 2023, as a tax recruitment specialist.
In this quarter, there were some great networking opportunities, with 2 fitness events as part of our “Women’s Wellness Weekends” initiative, my first Tax networking event (and also the first one of the year) and a Suhoor event for our Abu Dhabi network.
This quarter offered plenty of learning and development opportunities, not only as a recruitment professional, but also as a tax professional (with technical sessions and webinars).
After the release of the Corporate Tax law in December 2022, Consulting firms have been on a hiring spree. We are seeing many mid-sized firms building up their Corporate / International Tax and Transfer Pricing practices across different levels.
At the same time, they are also conscious of the budgets and are being cautious in their recruitment approach, keeping in mind the business requirements.
I have been working on multiple roles for various consulting firms, from leadership roles to more junior roles.
Finding the right tax professional with the required experience and within the fixed budget can sometimes be a challenge for mid-sized Consulting firms and they may require help from a specialized external recruiter.
I believe that It is important to appreciate the experience of the candidate and lowballing would not be a sustainable approach to build a strong practice.
Whilst Consulting firms have been actively recruiting to build up their teams, we see that Industry has been a bit slow to react on the news of Corporate Tax.
The requirement for an in-house role is typically for a mid-senior level candidate who would be responsible for the overall tax function of the business including VAT, ESR, Transfer Pricing, Corporate Tax, International Tax.
Sector specific experience is generally preferred given the unique tax issues for certain sectors. Also, GCC experience is definitely a plus, particularly in case of businesses having presence in other GCC countries.
The structure of tax teams is still quite small as compared to more mature and complex tax jurisdictions. It is still a long way to go, and as the Corporate tax law evolves, we will be witnessing more structured tax teams with separate Heads of Direct Tax and Indirect Tax and their respective teams.
Currently, many large businesses are in the process of Corporate Tax impact assessments and implementation with the help from external consultants.
The Corporate Tax compliance deadline falls in 2025, which may be why businesses have not hit the panic button yet.
On the contrary, when VAT was due to be implemented with effect from 1 January 2018, there was a frenzy. Unlike Corporate Tax where compliance is on annual basis, VAT is a transaction-based tax and it was impacting each transaction of the company from Day 1.
However, businesses do need to realize that Corporate Tax is going to be much more than filing the annual tax return, and it can have a much wider impact on their business. As such it is important to engage with consultants or have in-house tax specialists to review the structure and transactions and advise on key risk areas.
Transfer pricing seems to be the flavour of the season, as the transfer pricing provisions will greatly impact UAE based businesses. So, of course, there is a great demand for transfer pricing professionals having multi-jurisdictional experience in more matured and developed tax jurisdictions.
Whilst Corporate Tax and Transfer Pricing have been the buzz words, it is refreshing to see many companies recruiting for Indirect tax specialists in an in-house role. These are mainly mid-senior level roles with a budget of AED 25,000 - 35,000 monthly, reporting to the Head of Tax / CFO.
After 5 years of introduction of VAT, we are finally witnessing a focus on a specialized tax team.
Since the beginning of 2022, FTA has actively started conducting tax inspections and audits. With the increased risk of fines and penalties, tax governance and risk management are now becoming increasingly important for businesses.
Generally, we see that the businesses prefer a UAE based candidate having prior UAE VAT experience for the mid-senior roles. This is understandable as the law has been in place for 5 years and there are a lot of tax professionals in this region having the relevant experience.
We see a huge business potential in the KSA, given that Consulting firms and businesses often struggle to find the right talent.
I have been actively working on 4 roles for 2 different Consulting firms for their Riyadh offices during the quarter.
What I foresee for the next quarters -
Q1 was the time where many Consultancies and businesses were fixing their budgets for the year. So we expect to see more tax roles opening up, particularly in the mid-sized segment.
Also, Consultancies have announced annual / mid-year promotions, as a result of which there has been a fresh inflow of tax talent in the market.
Candidates from a consulting background are increasingly showing a strong preference for Industry roles.
In the coming months, I plan to build a strong network in Abu Dhabi where I see a huge talent gap in Tax. We will be hosting more networking events in Abu Dhabi for our tax network.