A View from up here .......

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I think most of us will be glad to put 2020 behind us and make a new start in 2021. I’ve been thinking about what 2021 might bring to the tax market in the UK. As a recruiter you get a strange overview of both the accountancy profession and the in-house market. So here are my predictions:

Remote Working Here to Stay

Covid-19 for all its adverse consequences has prompted a sea change in the way that we all work, where in 2019 agile working meant being able to perhaps work one day from home and time your commute around missing rush hour, now the vast majority of tax staff are doing all their work from home.  Some in-house clients have still managed to work from their office if there is plenty of space for social distancing. The majority of my clients expect their staff to want to continue working remotely for most of their working week and as a result my clients are actively looking to down size their office space. One Top 20 firm has already mentioned cutting its office space by 50%.  From what I have heard from clients and candidates I think a normal pattern post Covid vaccinations will be two days in the office, three from home but many clients have said they expect staff to be in for only one day a week.

Lots of Activity in the Property Market

The negative impact of Covid on the retail sector and corporate property sector in the centre of towns and cities means that there will be a lot of restructuring activity in the commercial property sector and this in turn will give rise to tax work. I’m expecting to see a rise in deals as property companies weather the storm by merging and also disposing of unprofitable assets. On the domestic property front I’m definitely ‘on trend’ in that we have moved further in to the countryside, I’m seeing candidates looking to move more in to the country, away from city centre flats in to houses with gardens and closer to loved ones. 

Brexit

Indirect tax practitioners have had a tricky year in 2020 with the Chancellor giving VAT breaks and VAT holidays but a likely ‘No Deal’  Brexit will bring indirect tax back in to the spotlight as businesses rush to work out how our removal from the EU Customs Union will impact their supply chains.

Salaries and Bonuses

The disastrous economic impact of lockdown and Covid-19 on the overall economy has not been reflected in the profits of the accountancy market, most firms I talk to seem to be around 10% down on the predictions that they had made for 2020. Let’s face it change is generally a good thing for the tax profession.  Firms that thought they would be more adversely impacted, furloughed staff back in March and those that have been able to, have paid back their furlough money.  What we aren’t seeing is big pay rises or bonuses, some firms put promotions on hold in 2020 and we expect to see a return to promotions but not a big increase in salaries and bonuses.

Increase in In-house Roles

Governance seemed to be the ‘watch word’ for 2020 and where the accountancy firms have been very careful to recruit, in-house tax team have expanded to mop up the work arising from the Criminal Finance Act, SAO etc. I’m already getting asked to recruit for in-house roles where it is envisaged that the start date will be in the second quarter of 2021.

Gyms, Cinemas  and Stadiums

I think it will be a long time before most people feel comfortable going back to a crowded gym, cinema or stadium as a result I think the entertainment industry is still going to be adversely impacted in 2021. We have already seem a paradigm shift in the way in which films are now being released direct to download rather than to cinemas and a huge upturn in apps such a Peloton bringing your exercise class or personal trainer in to your living room.

More On-line Interviewing

Even with the real possibility of a vaccine for Covid -19 I can’t see a return to face to face interviews for some time. However, HR and recruitment teams can congratulate themselves on the way they have stepped up to the challenge of on-boarding new hires when they can’t come in to an office. From changing the ways that pre-employment checks are done to couriering out laptops and mobile phones, 2020 has certainly bought the hiring process in to the 21st century. Sadly I think it will be a very long time before my clients are happy to bring an interviewee into the office for a cup of tea and a handshake, so Zoom and Teams are here to stay.

Closer to Equality for Women in Tax

Back in the spring of 2020 a client said to me that lockdown had really shown who in their firm was most productive and that it was becoming obvious that those who spoke up the most in the office were not necessarily those who were getting through the most work.  This client felt that on balance that the working women particularly working mothers in their team were actually shining in lockdown. Not being in an office and having to keep a closer eye on metrics to manage dispersed teams showed that the women and especially those who were part time were actually most profitable. I’ve heard similar things repeated time and again over the last year and hope that this will along with gender pay gap reporting lead to more equal pay in the tax market.  

Georgiana Head is an experienced tax recruiter who trained in taxation. She is ATT qualified and serves on ATT Council, she is also a founder member of Women in Tax in the North of England. Georgiana can be contacted on 07957 842 402 or at georgiana@ghrtax.com