In the corporate landscape, what you do on a day-to-day basis will influence your future career options, so choose carefully.
The in-house tax advisor has become as important as the tax practitioner. The opportunities within the corporate sector vary due to a number of factors, including the type of organisational structure and the stage of incorporation in Ireland. Understanding this will help you figure out if a move to industry is the right step.
Organisational structure plays a big role in the work you’ll be exposed to and future career opportunities. Tax professionals can be found in group functions, shared services centres (SSCs), large indigenous businesses or a trading entity of a multinational. Here’s some information on organisational structures:
- Group finance functions, whether in the form of an Irish plc or a multinational headquartered here (global/EMEA), generally have large and diverse in-house tax teams. They are structured with tax specialisations, and operate under a consolidation environment where the key decision-makers or leadership teams sit;
- SSCs can be similar to group finance functions in terms of size and structure, with a focus on centralising certain functions for all jurisdictions (a centralised VAT function, for example). This results in a strong focus on international taxes and, in some cases, activity is more compliance focused than consulting focused;
- A large indigenous business or a multinational trading entity is likely to have a small tax team – often a standalone role – as the scope of responsibility is less expansive in terms of geographical reach. However, it will offer a diverse role in terms of tax heads, along with closer access to business units and senior management. Exposure to international taxes can be limited;
- Tax reporting and provisioning play a big part within a group function and SSC where monthly, quarterly and yearly tax reporting is required;
- Listed companies generally involve more reporting obligations. Investor relations is pivotal and funding projects can often be a key focus;
- The operation’s level of autonomy is important when determining how much of your role will involve tax planning or advisory work. Some group functions and SSCs have full autonomy with little parent involvement, while others are tightly controlled by the parent company;
- A highly acquisitive company will offer opportunities to get involved in M&A and project work. The scope of compliance work will also increase post- acquisition; and
- Most organisations offer alternative opportunities outside tax, and a chance to join other group functions.
Stage of incorporation
- If a company is in the early stages of setting up a global/EMEA finance function in Ireland, the work you will be exposed to can be more project management orientated, setting up new systems and procedures and so on. You will be more likely to rely on external advisors;
- If the group plans to expand into emerging markets and undertake future acquisitions, you will be expected to advise on such transactions from a tax and commercial perspective;
- A company in the start-up or early stages, whereby you are the first tax hire, will inevitably result in future progression as you build your team; and
- In the case of an established team or company, the larger the team the more opportunities will present themselves for career progression. However, a lot of tax professionals find themselves at a point where there is no further development (unless their boss leaves or they move overseas with the group) and an external move is the only option for progression.
Recent market trends
- Tax departments today face more challenges than ever before, globalisation and digitalisation being the top 2 disruptive forces.. 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. Tax professionals are undergoing an evolution in the skills necessary to survive in the corporate sector. While a strong technical orientation will remain important, the tax professional of the future will need to have a more rounded skillset;
- The emergence of the “tax technologist” who understands data analytics, as well as the tax rules, will be required so that tax professionals can add value in innovative ways; and
- Tax directors are becoming key players at the front-end of business strategy. With the international tax structure undergoing a fundamental overhaul, the tax department is being further drawn into a broader strategic business role.
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