5 Tax Recruitment Trends 2020 and into 2021 

5 Tax Recruitment Trends 2020 and into 2021

On the 13th of February of this year,  the tax team at Barden attempted to predict what the top 5 tax recruitment trends would be for 2020.  See here for the full article.

Little did we know the turbulent year ahead in respect of Covid-19 and how disruptive this little known virus would become for the entire world.

Despite Covid-19, the tax market in Ireland has weathered reasonably well during the year and we thought it would be useful to take a look at some of the trends we predicted and see how they played out!

  1. Changing OECD proposals and a demand for corporate tax compliance & international tax experts. 

Whilst the goalposts changed during the year, due to the pandemic, allowing countries to deal with the crisis, work continues for a globally coordinated model of corporate taxation and the plan remains in place for 2021 and beyond.  However, did the changing timelines impact the tax employment market? Overall no as there remains a need for corporates, and firms advising corporates, to have good compliance teams and international tax experts in place to tackle such changes.

However, due to Covid-19 and general uncertainty in the market, particularly during the first lockdown, there was a slowdown in these types of opportunities coming onto the market. Thankfully as we’ve all adapted to the “new norm” there has been a steady increase in such opportunities arising again, albeit at more mid manager level, rather than at the senior end.

  1. Acquisitions & the job spec of the tax professional.

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity in Ireland was reported in August to have dropped by 29% due to Covid-19 and for most markets 2020 is to represent the lowest watermarks in M&A, since the global financial crises.

As such there was a noticeable decrease in this period in tax opportunities with a focus on acquisition activity (apart from some exceptions within the pharma and IT space).  Since August there has been a gradual rise in deal-making, as confidence returns to the investment market, but it’s still very volatile given the nature of the pandemic.

However, what has remained the same, and actually even more emphasised, is the particular skillset required by tax professionals to adapt to changing group structures and tax planning initiatives.  More so than ever, corporates need to ensure they are developing the right tax strategies, managing tax risks and driving for operational efficiencies within the group.  So these aspects, despite a slowdown in M&A activity, are continuing to feature on the job spec of a tax professional.

  1. We predicted the most in demand tax professional would be the newly qualified professional…

…this was categorically wrong! Certainly it was looking like we were going to be right during the first quarter of 2020 but as Covid-19 hit, companies and firms took a cautious approach to recruitment. Many decided that additional headcount, at the newly qualified level, was not a necessary hire nor a feasible hire given the working from home environment and lack of structure in place to support a new hire at this level.

Again there were certain exceptions, where a good remote working policy was already in place, and within industries where Covid-19 had positively impacted the bottom line. Thankfully the trend is reversing and we’re currently seeing an increase in the number of opportunities coming onto the market at the newly qualified level which should continue into 2021.

  1. A rise in indirect tax specialims, use of data and analytics (D&A), and an increase in tax technology expertise.

Whilst we didn’t witness a rise in indirect tax specialims (again due to Covid-19 and uncertainty in the market) we did witness an appetite from employers to have tax professionals comfortable using D&A and developing an expertise around tax technology.

Why? Tax departments today face more challenges than ever before. Against the backdrop of these challenges, the top issue on the minds of tax and finance directors is how to operate efficient and effective tax departments. This has to be done through D&A and tax technology tools.  As a result, tax technology expertise Is becoming almost as Important as tax technical skills and tax professionals need to upskill and ensure they get up to speed with these developments.  The good news Is employers don’t expect tax professionals to already have the expertise, this expertise can be developed with the right training and mindset.

  1. Brexit

Ironically due to Brexit, we had predicted an increase in global mobility & tax issues as a result of the increasing movement of people working across Ireland and the UK.  However, Covid-19 has had major implications for global mobility and governments are changing tax, social security and residency rules for mobile employees, including business travellers. As a result the people teams in the advisory firms remain extremely busy, just not for the reason we thought they would be!

In terms of the employment trends in this area, we haven’t yet seen any direct impact with opportunities coming onto the market. Perhaps 2021 will see a pent up demand in such teams…

And looking ahead…

As we enter the last month of the year, it’s encouraging to see an overall rise in positivity across most sectors of the tax market.  Whilst it’s too early to predict exactly how 2021 will evolve in terms of the tax recruitment market, we know from our vast experience that tax professionals will always be highly sought after and opportunities will be created to meet the requirement of tax expertise amongst firms and corporates in Ireland.


Need help building your finance teams?

We’re the experts in tax recruitment in Ireland. If you’re a tax professional seeking opportunities, or a leader looking to attract new tax talent, speak to our experts today at hello@barden.ie, or get in touch by reaching out to Kate Flanagan, Aideen Murphy, Neil Murphy or Aoibhin Byrne.



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