2018 tax salary guide for permanent and contract roles in London; niche skill sets and top talent remain in high demand.
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Taxation continues to command the headlines; from Brexit and the Paradise Papers to high profile tax evasion and avoidance stories - now, more than before, organisations are identifying tax as a key part of their operational strategy. HMRC enjoyed a successful year, with tax receipts at the fastest level experienced since the recession. Tax take rose by £35.6bn in the 2016/17 year up to £569.3bn, driven largely by taxes that target wealthy individuals. Markets such as Fintech and ‘start-ups’ have seen a notable rise in job opportunities, whereas financial services organisations continue to hire within compliance and regulatory areas.
Many accountancy firms have maintained heavy investment outside of London, a continuation of the existing shift of their internal dynamics and build a regional footprint. Overall, salaries remained consistent, with incremental increases in pay for specialised roles that demanded niche skill sets still, with individuals with certain key skills securing more premium packages. Competition for top talent remains rife within the tax profession and will continue to do so into 2018 and years to come.
In the second half of 2017 there was a notable increase in the volume of available tax jobs when compared to the first half of the year.This was driven partly by the Big 4 and Top 10 organisations having strong recruitment drives in the year, aiming to expand their niche teams. At the same time, however, there have been redundancies and targeted voluntary redundancies across larger firms. These based on restructuring within certain banks and the closure of tax jobs in London within satellite teams or offices to relocate further north to centres of excellence and other compliance hubs.
Reading and Birmingham remain key focus areas for development and offer genuine career progression and development for those able to relocate or commute. Brexit remains the unpredictable factor on legislation changes and will continue to provide discussion and debate on what future considerations for organisations and job seekers.
Lastly, there continues to be a shortage of talent at the NQ level with no signs of change due to mixed hiring plans at graduate and entry level. On a positive note, average salaries have increased in certain areas and individuals with key niche skills or sector exposure, will continue to have a market advantage.
Specialist and niche skill sets are still in demand as companies look for new revenue streams. Candidates with analytical experience, including but not limited to strong technology skills have been demanded throughout 2017. The rise in tax technologists looks set to continue and job seekers looking to diversify or futureproof their careers should take every opportunity that they can to get involved with their tax teams’ technology offerings, particularly if they do not enjoy or lack the natural ability to develop business.
In-house compliance and reporting both still remain key, alongside smaller/stand alone positions, valuing a full breadth of experience to maximise their operational input. IT and technology sectors are notably driving this type of hire. Big 4 in London continue to focus on high margin areas, with a maintained focus in the regions on low value/compliance work. A spike has been noted in in-house employment tax roles as large companies invest for the first time in a specialist resource.
The ACA and CTA generally remain the most ubiquitous and recognised qualifications in tax. The joint programme between the CIOT and ICAEW continues to gain momentum. Equally, ICAS’s introduction of the tax qualification ITP will see more professionals within the sector with a pure tax qualification. Those candidates working in niche/specialist areas may want to consider specific qualifications such as the ADIT, Enrolled Agent (EA) or STEP.
In a competitive market, furthering your qualifications is never going to harm your promotion or pay rise prospects. Additionally, candidates need to upskill themselves in the latest tax technologies as this will continue to grow in importance as processes are increasingly automated. Organisations are continuing to adapt to the challenges of retention and have recently moved to a far more agile working environment and flexible promotion cycle.
Diversity and inclusion is the topic that continues to take centre stage in recruitment and strategy for many businesses across the UK. This is not merely lip service; for many of our clients this is still the single, most important focus in their hiring strategy for tax jobs going into 2018, with many setting targets for the diversity of their workforce and leadership teams to be achieved by 2020 and beyond. Many have altered entry level requirements for trainees and shortened interview processes in order to secure the top talent first.
Newly qualified candidates remain simultaneously the most elusive and the most in demand, with multiple examples of large corporations hiring candidates for permanent positions on the (two-year) Tier 5 Visa, having exhausted their options (or patience) in searching for a UK trained equivalent. The fact that so many companies are showing willingness to pursue this option demonstrates the shortage of UK trained candidates emerging from training contracts. Employers are changing their methods and overall ability to invest in the training of bright and capable non-UK trained candidates, and perhaps these are the first signs of a shifting perception in what constitutes a reasonable period of time for a permanent ‘Millennial’ hire to stay in a role.