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A Career in Tax - Seriously Worth Considering

“I want to be ‘X’ when I grow up”... A phrase we have all said at least once at some point in our lives. I know for a fact that I pondered on this thought at every milestone of my life growing up. Primary school: Astronaut, Secondary School: Footballer and College: Lawyer. I’m not sure if it was just me in this boat but it was a daunting task to think about what I genuinely wanted to do, career-wise, longer-term.   Having now spent several years specialising in tax recruitment, advising individuals at various stages of their career, I thought it was a great opportunity to reflect on why a career in Tax could be highly rewarding for anyone considering this route. Especially with the market being in demand for high-quality individuals!   So, what is Tax? Tax: “(an amount of) money paid to the government that is based on your income or the cost of goods or services you have bought" For most, paying tax seems like an endless chore. However, its fact of life and something that affects individuals and businesses alike. As a Tax Professional, you can be the Batman to Gotham but instead, help save money on tax bills. In a nutshell, key responsibilities will include knowing tax law, breaking this down into layman terms, identifying new ways to save money whilst ensuring it's all done in a fully compliant and timely manner.   Types of Tax:  Broadly speaking, there are three main types of taxes: Corporate Tax: Tax for companies and businesses. These could be small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Owner Managed Businesses (OMB’s) or Large and Listed (FTSE100). There are specialisms within this such as Transfer Pricing, M&A and Employment tax to name a few. Personal Tax: Tax for individuals. There is also the option to specialise here, including Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Trusts. Value Added Tax (VAT): Tax on goods and services.   Where to work:  Accountancy Practices: This can range from the small boutique/independent firms through to mid-tier, all the way to the largest being the ‘Big 4’ (PwC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG). They act on behalf of a range of clients and across varying sectors. Commerce and Industry (In-House): This is where you will be solely working for one business and handling all their taxes, say Vodafone for example.    Career Path:  In an accountancy practice, your career path and opportunities to progress will be very linear. You’ll start as a Graduate/Tax assistant, progressing through to Tax Semi-Senior, then Senior. After this it will be Assistant Manager, Manager, Senior Manager and then comes Directorship. The final piece of the puzzle will be becoming a Tax Partner. Of course, there may be a few additional steps depending on the firm in question, but this gives a rough idea.   On the flip side, a career in-house will look different from that in terms of titles and promotions. On occasion the teams tend not to be as big as those in the larger accountancy practices, thus meaning fewer levels to climb. As a result, an ‘upwards’ move may take slightly longer.    Qualifications:  The two main qualifications in Tax are ATT and CTA.   ATT will help those starting their career and gives a solid understanding of core compliance principles. This is vital in ensuring client’s tax returns are completed accurately and filed on time. CTA is the next big milestone after ATT and is when you become a Chartered Tax Advisor. Being an advisor switches the focus to the problem solving, consultancy side of tax. It’s about knowing rules and legislation inside out, to take advantage of any loopholes, thus making the client’s finances as tax-efficient as possible. For anyone looking to further their career in some of the specialist fields, there are options available such as ADIT and STEP.   Lifestyle and remuneration:  Work-life balance is a very hot topic in today's working world. For those working in practice, hours tend to be longer especially with key deadlines to be met and this could result in additional evenings and weekends where you are required to work. However, the accounting world is continuing to develop and has become hugely accommodating to agile and flexible working to be competitive. Salary will rise steadily and is usually dependent on the firm you work for, your experience and qualifications. Broadly speaking, someone with a few years tax experience with the ATT qualification will be compensated around the 35k mark, this is likely to increase by at least 10k with a few further years’ experience and the CTA. After this, the world is your oyster and salaries can easily reach six figures and (in some cases), much higher, especially Partners in Big 4. Those working in Commerce and Industry are likely to be remunerated at a greater level than in practice and likely to see enhanced benefits packages (pension, days holiday etc). However, there are fewer opportunities available, thus making it more competitive.   In summary A career in tax can be highly prosperous and rewarding, not only financially but also in terms of professional development. It offers a genuine chance to progress, ensuring your career does not stagnate. With tax legislation changing all the time, you will be sure to be kept on your toes! Here at Pro-Tax we focus primarily focus on tax opportunities for those with a minimum of 12-18 months of experience and who are likely to be studying for their ATT. For those wishing to embark on a career in tax, please do familiarise yourself with the Accountancy Age Top 50+50: This will give you a good insight into the top 100 accounting firms in the UK, all of which are likely to advertise their graduate programmes and entry-level positions. The above is simply an insight to those interested in a career with tax and there is certainly more to this than meets the eye!   Regardless of whether you are just learning the ropes in tax or if you are seeking genuine career advice as a more experienced tax professional, please do not hesitate to contact Dominic Watt on 0207 269 6310 or


Three Reasons Why Now Is The Perfect Time to Consider Your Options

Here are three reasons why now is the perfect time to consider your options, at the start of H2 2021 1.    The market is about as busy as it has ever been. Some Q2 findings from the ONS: "the number of job vacancies in April to June 2021 was 9.9% (77,500) above its pre-pandemic level in January to March 2020...". We expect this trend to continue through this year certainly, and the sheer volume of options just makes for better choosing. 2.    Salaries are on the up - but not as much as the new job offers that we are seeing. The latest ONS data shows an approximate 7% increase in weekly average earnings (approximately 4% once adjusted for base & compositional effects). This number includes incremental pay rises (i.e. staying with the same company) and massively understates the uplifts we’re seeing from those changing employers (often 30-40%+ at the moment). Why settle for an incremental increase if it barely meets inflation, and your market rate is much higher elsewhere? 3.    Flexibility. London salaries are attracting talent from all across the country due to the widespread remote working arrangements. But we have also seen this remote working drive up local/regional offers, as many regional employers have found themselves competing with the London mark. Many employers have given their staff the option to work from home for much/most of the week, while others have taken a much less flexible approach. The key question is – how much longer will the market be opportune in this volume, salary level and flexibility of options? Get in touch to learn what opportunities might be out there for you. For more information on this article, contact Jay Sky at


CTA Results: May 2021 compared to November 2020

Summertime in the UK usually means going on holiday and soaking up some sun but for much of the tax profession, it means receiving results from exams. Just under a week ago (at the time of writing), the CIOT announced the results from its examinations taken by 1,219 candidates in May 2021. In addition to this, there were a further 499 candidates who sat one or more papers on ACA CTA joint programme, 834 candidates who sat a combination of ATT and CTA papers, as well as 51 candidates who sat exams for the first time on the newest route to qualification, CA CTA joint programme.  Peter Rayney, Institute President confirmed “323 candidates have now successfully completed all of the CTA examinations. Included in this figure are 54 candidates who were on the ACA CTA Joint Programme and 71 candidates who have now fully completed the ATT CTA Tax Pathway by passing the CTA element” As a tradition, I’ve taken a moment to draw up an overview and compare the result of the most recent sitting to those of November 2020. Advanced Technical – May 2021 Paper Total sitting exam Candidates passed Pass rate Taxation of Owner-Managed Businesses 883 585 66% Domestic Indirect Taxation 92 53 58% Inheritance Tax, Trusts and Estates 128 52 41% Human Capital Taxes 77 27 35% Taxation of Individuals 452 221 49% Cross-border Indirect Taxation 48 32 67% Taxation of Major Corporates 362 193 53% Advanced Technical – November 2020 Paper Total sitting exam Candidates passed Pass rate Taxation of Owner-Managed Businesses 872 365 42% Domestic Indirect Taxation 93 32 34% Inheritance Tax, Trusts and Estates 139 68 49% Human Capital Taxes 66 11 17% Taxation of Individuals 612 358 58% Cross-border Indirect Taxation 46 26 57% Taxation of Major Corporates 298 176 59% Awareness – May 2021    111 candidates passed this paper out of a total of 189 sitting the examination. A pass rate of 59%. Awareness – November 2020 181 candidates passed this paper out of a total of 275 sitting the examination. A pass rate of 66%. Application and Professional Skills – May 2021  Paper Total sitting exam Candidates passed Pass rate Taxation of Individuals 91 50 55% Taxation of Larger Companies and Groups 71 51 72% Taxation of Owner-Managed Businesses 255 131 51% Human Capital Taxes 36 18 50% VAT & Other Indirect Taxes 23 13 57% Inheritance Tax, Trust & Estates 47 25 53% Application and Professional Skills – November 2020 Paper Total sitting exam Candidates passed Pass rate Taxation of Individuals 72 36 50% Taxation of Larger Companies and Groups 77 34 44% Taxation of Owner-Managed Businesses 212 104 49% Human Capital Taxes 31 12 39% VAT & Other Indirect Taxes 16 7 44% Inheritance Tax, Trust & Estates 40 22 55% In summary, highlighted in green are those that saw an increase in pass rate, whereas those highlighted in red saw a decrease. As you can see from the above, it was great to see an increase in pass rates for several of the exams. In particular, all of the Application and Professional Skills exams saw a pass rate except from the Inheritance, Trusts and Estates paper which was a marginal 2% difference. The team and I here at Pro-Tax would like to congratulate all of those that have successfully achieved CTA status in what remains to be extraordinary circumstances. It’s a huge weight off your shoulders and you should certainly enjoy a period of time without being inundated with legislation to study! If you are seeking career advice for the next steps after qualifying, then please do not hesitate to get in contact. The market is extremely busy with a large proportion of the accountancy practice market looking to hire. For those that didn’t receive the results they were hoping for, it’s time to pick yourself back up, reflect and continue with sheer grit and determination. The CTA is an extremely tough qualification, but rest assured it will all be worth it in the long run! If for whatever reason you are not receiving the relevant support you need with your exams, then we are also here to assist.  For more information on this article or for help with the next steps in your tax career after your CTA results, contact Dominic Watt on 020 7269 6310 or


The Best Tax Recruitment Team in the Market

In June, I joined the Practice team at Pro-Tax and it is a move that has so far exceeded my expectations. This is the biggest and best Tax recruitment team in the market and I’m confident I am now in the best position to help Tax professionals to realise their career ambitions.   I’ve been in Tax recruitment for over 15 years, so I have known Alison Humphries the MD and Kevin Racher, who leads the Tax recruitment team at Pro for many years and I knew how successful the team has been in the past. The reason I wanted to join was the market is booming and, from a position working on my own, I was conscious that I could not move at the right pace and speak to enough clients or candidates to deliver the best service. I was hoping to find a good team with a decent database and processes, but I didn’t find that. I’ve found the BEST team I have ever worked with, with the tightest processes, superb technology, most open communication and a really dynamic, positive work environment (inside and outside of the office). I’m extremely confident to write this article, to advise anyone who is open to a career-improving move, from Part Qualified to Partner, to speak with Pro-Tax, because I am positive, we can help you. Every company on the planet is keen to tell you they are people-focused and caring and recruiters are no different. To be frank, what most people care more about when they look for a Tax Recruiter is "can they actually find you a better job", I would rate the following attributes as important and we tick all the boxes: Professionalism – We have the best training and technology available, and we handle your personal information with care. Market Coverage – We have the largest Tax Practice Team with a combined 75+ years of experience in the market, as well as working with firms of all sizes and profiles, so there will be the perfect match for you. Geographical Reach – Our team has members focused on regional opportunities, not just London. Tax Knowledge – We understand your CV and the current/future trends in the UK and International Taxation, so we can help you build your experience in the right way to push you to the top of a client’s shortlist in future. Active Listening – We know that the current roles available may not be right for you, so we will take the time to listen to your plans and target opportunities and firms that will really work for you. If you are thinking about your career right now, please get in touch with me or any of the team. You can book a call in my diary here, call me on 07816 529 364 or contact any of my colleagues below: Top 10 and Big 4: Ashleigh Polakiewicz | Maisie Horrell | Rebecca English | Kevin Racher ​Boutique firms: Dominic Watt Regional Opportunities Jennifer Nelson Partner Opportunities: Ben Hall - Prosero Search


Tax Practice vs. Industry: The Big Debate

As a tax professional, you will inevitably come up against the decision of whether to build a career in practice or to move into an industry role. Both have their pros and cons, and your decision will ultimately come down to what type of person you are, what is important to you in your career, and your long-term goals. Making this decision can often be difficult as roles in practice and industry both have a lot to offer, but our specialist tax recruiters have put together key advice to help you make an informed decision! ​ Type of Work The type of work can differ quite significantly between tax roles in practice and in commercial business’ and the type of work your role will entail will depend on the company. In practice you are likely to specialise in one specific area, whether this is corporate tax, investigations, personal tax or VAT etc. A positive of this is you become a real deep tax specialist and have the ability to work on a variety of clients, often in varying sectors. On the other hand, working in-house allows you to fully immerse yourself in one business and look at the company in its entirety. You will be working in a more commercial role and get closer to the business and see how different departments interact, such as legal, sales, finance and tax, and in this way, an in-house tax position can perhaps offer a broader role. Another point to consider is whether you are looking for a role that is highly client-facing. If this is the case and client interactions are something you enjoy, a role in practice is likely to suit you. However, with this also comes client pressures. Timesheets and billings are a necessary part of a tax role in practice and is one of the biggest reasons why people choose to move in-house. Due to the nature of an in-house role, it is rare that you will have timesheets or financial targets, and typically you will have more autonomy over your work, with your working environment often more relaxed due to the absence of client pressures.  Lastly, if you are looking to be involved with the business development side of the firm you work for, you are best to seek a role within practice as opposed to in-house. Business development is a big part of working in a tax practice role, especially as you move up the food chain, as you will focus on building and maintaining client relationships while with an in-house role, you will instead focus on raising the profile of the tax team within the wider organisation.   Salary & Benefits When it comes to benefits, a role in a well-established practice with defined risk & reward teams will see you receive a healthy remuneration and benefits package. Working for a commercial business, whether this is a FTSE 100, US-listed or Fortune 500 business, you will receive not only a good remuneration package but also additional benefits including flexible working and commercial discounts. Differences in salary between in-house and tax practice roles depends on the level you reach within your company. Initially, although you may be willing to take a pay drop to move in-house there is often no need to, as a move in-house typically comes with a 10-20% pay increase and a premium. As a general rule, you will always be better paid within industry up until a certain point, which is when it comes to Partner vs. Head of Tax. Working in practice as a Partner will always outstrip the earnings of a Head of Tax in a commercial business, although of course there are always exceptions to the rule. Therefore, when considering which path to take it is important to consider your long term career goals and whether your ambition is to end up as a Partner or Head of Tax.   Working Hours Working hours tend to be better with in-house tax roles as opposed to in practice. There are usually smaller teams with a collaborative working pattern as opposed to the larger structured teams you often find in practice. Additionally, client responsibilities with a role in practice mean you need to be on call and meet clients, whereas in-house roles can offer better flexibility and opportunities to work from home, as well as regular working hours and less late nights, allowing for a better work-life balance. Although this is typically the case there are, of course, some exceptions and more large tax practices are now understanding the value a healthy work-life balance adds to employee effectiveness and happiness, and are making inroads to improve this.   Progression Prospects Working in-house gives you the opportunity to move around the business, both across and upwards. You will work in a smaller team which gives you more responsibility in your role which will only broaden your prospects in the future, and there can be good opportunities for progression as in-house teams tend to have less of a rigid structure than tax teams in a large practice. However, in some circumstances it can be difficult to move upwards - ultimately, it depends on the company. While some large commercial companies, like those in the oil or automotive industry, have huge tax teams with structure and great progression opportunities, other companies have very small or even one-person tax teams. While this gives you more autonomy in your role, the opportunity to work closely with the Head of Tax or Director and exposure to different services lines within the company, this can also limit your opportunity to progress within the company itself. On the flip side, working in tax practice typically offers a clear and structured progression route. You will be in a position where if you hit business development and financial targets and pass your qualifications, you will move up the chain. Whilst an in-house role could potentially be a stand-alone position with limited resources to call upon, in practice, you are surrounded by technical expertise and talent. You will be working at the forefront of changes in legislation and therefore a role in practice provides you with excellent learning opportunities, as well as good progression prospects.   Ease of Finding a New Opportunity It is relatively easy to move from practice to an in-house role, particularly if you are newly qualified and coming from one of the Big 4 or Top 10 as you will be highly sought after. Once you have in-house experience, you will find other doors open for you to take a step-up role in another commercial business, as some positions will require relevant experience. One of the main benefits of working in-house is the opportunity to work for a household brand or in an industry you’re interested in, whether this is retail, media, construction, automotive or telecoms, to name a few.  Once you have chosen to move into a commercial business, it can be difficult to move back into practice. The longer you spend away from practice the harder it becomes, as you may find you lose the client-handling skills essential for practice. Therefore, it is important to be sure where you want to end up before making the move in-house and consider the wide range of career opportunities available to you within practice.   Ultimately, your decision will come down to what type of work suits you and what you want from your career as a tax professional. If you are looking for a role within a company whose brand and household name excites you, and where you will have a broad, autonomous role and opportunities for flexible working, then a role in industry may suit you. On the other hand, if you are looking for a client facing role that sees you working on business development and at the forefront of changes in legislation, with clearly defined learning and progression opportunities, you should pursue a tax role in practice.


IR35 - What's Changed?

For years, the stigma of IR35 has been a concern for working Contractors across the board in the Public Sector, however, up until now the ‘impossibility’ of HMRC policing such an issue has allowed the majority of contractors to operate outside (whether they legitimately are or not!). So what has changed? As of 6th April this year, the liability on IR35 status and correct tax reductions have shifted from the contractor’s Personal Service Company (PSC) to the end client and agency payrolling the contractor. Before 6 April 2021, if your worker provides services to a client through you in the: Public sector, the client must decide your employment status Private sector, you must decide your worker’s status From 6 April 2021, all public sector clients and medium or large-sized private sector clients will be responsible for deciding your worker’s employment status. This includes some charities and third sector organisations. If the off-payroll working rules apply, your fees will be subject to Income Tax and National Insurance contributions. What does this mean and what have been the ramifications thus far? Well, the most apparent change is everyone involved has become more risk-averse, in the fear of being liable for up to 7 years of back-dated tax payments to HMRC. The end organisations, who are legally responsible for deeming whether an assignment falls inside or out, are largely taking the risk-free approach and are stating that everyone is ‘inside’. This has, in turn, meant that each assignment has received less interest by true professional interim contractors (who are used to consultancy-like assignments), and has limited the talent pool. For those that have accepted the changes, it has meant that they have to operate through an additional intermediary, such as an Umbrella company – where the contractor is forced to pay full tax and National Insurance (at 13.8%) at the source. Conversely, we have seen many contractors who have put themselves through the HMRC tool, deemed themselves as out, and have the prerogative to challenge the clients and ask at least for the due diligence that has led to their ‘inside’ decision. We have also seen a number of Housing and Charitable organisations who have managed to stipulate, quite confidently, that they are outside, and have been able to offer ‘outside’ IR35 assignments. The risk that professional interims take differs to that of a permanent member of staff. When professional interim finish an assignment there is no guarantee that they will secure the next assignment anytime soon. A contractor could quite easily see themselves out of work 2-3 months at any time whilst they look for another opportunity. A lot of interims also have their own specialist remits such as a particular system implementation, culture transformation and reviewing financial processes and procedures to name a few. Professional interims are important for all companies going through change. Change can be difficult for any organisation that is going through the transition as it means going into something new without reassurance that it is going to work for the better. A lot of projects/assignments focus around someone who has gone through this change period and perform the same project for different organisations. If every permanent member of staff stayed at their company for a year on average just to move on to another company this would cause a huge disruption in the market. One of the important factors for someone to consider permanent over interim is having that security and stability. Every person is different and in the same respect, everyone’s motivators are different. With the IR35 changes, should contractors really have to take a hit in the public sector whilst the private sector remains unaffected? For more information about this article, or to speak to Petra about your interim finance recruiting needs in London or Nationwide, contact her on 020 7269 6350 or


CTA Results: The Effect of a Global Pandemic?

The May 2020 examinations for CTA were held in June and July as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CIOT accelerated the introduction of online exams to allow those who had been preparing for the Application and Professional Skills paper (APS) to still do so. This was done be a remote invigilated system. The rest were sadly cancelled.  During an extremely uncertain time, a total of 291 people sat the exam and of which 64 individuals successfully passed and were eligible for membership to the institute. It was commented by Glyn Fullelove, The Institute President, that “the technology used was new to CIOT” and they know “it brought its own challenges to some candidates”. As a result, all those unsuccessful at this sitting were offered free entry for APS in either November 2020 or May 2021’s sittings.  Thursday 28th January 2021 marked a highly anticipated day for those who were awaiting their results from the November 2020 sitting. It was announced that 1,396 people took the exams and that 313 of which had been successful in completing all exams for membership (included in this were those who were studying for ATT/CTA and ACA/CTA joint pathways).  Given the cancellations May, it was only fair to compare the most recent results to those of November 2019, taken by 1,528 candidates. As follows is a breakdown and comparison of these results by examination: Advanced Technical – November 2020 Paper Total sitting exam Candidates passed Pass rate Taxation of Owner-Managed Businesses 872 365 42% Domestic Indirect Taxation 93 32 34% Inheritance Tax, Trusts and Estates 139 68 49% Human Capital Taxes 66 11 17% Taxation of Individuals 612 358 58% Cross-border Indirect Taxation 46 26 57% Taxation of Major Corporates 298 176 59% Advanced Technical – November 2019 Paper Total sitting exam Candidates passed Pass rate Taxation of Owner-Managed Businesses 697 264 38% Domestic Indirect Taxation 57 15 26% Inheritance Tax, Trusts and Estates 93 42 45% Human Capital Taxes 42 22 52% Taxation of Individuals 435 222 51% Cross-border Indirect Taxation 58 35 60% Taxation of Major Corporates 258 162 63% Awareness – November 2020 181 candidates passed this paper out of a total of 275 sitting the examination. A pass rate of 66%. Awareness – November 2019  152 candidates passed this paper out of a total of 228 sitting the examination. A pass rate of 67% Application and Professional Skills – November 2020 Paper Total sitting exam Candidates passed Pass rate Taxation of Individuals 72 36 50% Taxation of Larger Companies and Groups 77 34 44% Taxation of Owner-Managed Businesses 212 104 49% Human Capital Taxes 31 12 39% VAT & Other Indirect Taxes 16 7 44% Inheritance Tax, Trust & Estates 40 22 55% Application and Professional Skills – November 2019 Paper Total sitting exam Candidates passed Pass rate Taxation of Individuals 52 32 62% Taxation of Larger Companies and Groups 53 27 51% Taxation of Owner-Managed Businesses 216 119 55% Human Capital Taxes 27 14 52% VAT & Other Indirect Taxes 17 11 65% Inheritance Tax, Trust & Estates 47 25 53% In summary, highlighted in green are those that saw an increase in pass rate, whereas those highlighted in red saw a decrease. Bearing in mind the past year, the notable difference is the climate the exams were taken in. However, it was fantastic to see that several of the advanced technical papers saw an increase in pass rate. This is a period of change and pass rates are envisaged to increase as people get more used to online examinations. Pro-Tax would like to extend their congratulations to those that received the exam results they were hoping for, it is a fantastic achievement. If you need career advice around next steps after CTA or salary advice, please do not hesitate to get in touch. For those that did not get the results they were hoping for, please do not worry. These exams are not easy in any normal circumstance. This is a perfect time to reflect, dust yourself off and get ready to smash the exams next time round! If you are not receiving the support you need for your qualification, we are also here to help. For more information on this article or for help with the next steps in your tax career after your CTA results, contact Dominic Watt on 020 7269 6310 or


Newly qualified CTA: 5 Tips to Improve Your Job Search

So, you’ve passed your CTA – congratulations! Whether it’s today, tomorrow or any working day onwards, at some point you'll be thinking about your current role, developmental goals and career aspirations. But from the newly qualified to the Head of Tax level, new challenges continually present themselves, not only in the nature of the role undertaken, but also in your efforts to get to the next step. So now you’ve got the CTA under your belt, here are our top tips to help direct your search and steer-clear of the common shortfalls. 1 -  Identify The Breadth Of Skills Needed For In-House Tax 2 - Consider The Best Time To Move In-House 3 - Timing: Plan Your Job Search And Start Date 4 - Don’t Focus Too Much On The CTA In-House Starting Salary 5 - Stay On Good Terms With Your Contacts In Practice 1 -  Identify The Breadth Of Skills Needed For In-House Tax As covered by various senior figures in our “60 seconds with…” series, an increasing challenge for the in-house tax professional involves diversifying their taxation remit and upskilling with business-specific systems to partner more effectively with the business. Though factors such as the industry and team size you sit in will influence the areas you can get involved in, you just can’t go far wrong by pushing yourself to learn more. An interesting insight shared in a “60 seconds with…” (to be published in our next newsletter) explains that in light of increasing digitisation, AI tech, and automation, a challenge for the in-house tax consultant of tomorrow is to understand compliance & returns well enough to be able to advise adequately. The breadth of skills you can bring to the table should especially be a consideration for those considering a move in-house from large professional practices. In a Big 4 Corporate Tax team for instance, your tax area will likely be specialised, but also rather narrow and siloed from other areas of tax. The balancing trick (and a challenge facing the future of the in-house tax professional), is to make the most of your specialism, while keeping your CV fluid enough to appeal to smaller teams and get involved in multiple areas of tax. Bottom line: the importance of seeking a breadth of taxation skill, while staying true to your specialism and learning to partner with various business functions cannot be understated. 2 - Consider The Best Time To Move In-House Tax is a candidate-scarce market at the junior level – capitalise upon this opportunity while you can. The rhetoric often passed around in practice is to wait until at least Manager/Senior Manager before making the move in-house. The common suspects to justify this reasoning is that you will find a relative ‘lack of progression’ and ‘compliance-focused roles’ in-house at the junior level. However, what gets mentioned much less often is the benefit to your current firm, if you are to move in-house at a more senior level. That is to say, moving in-house once at Senior Manager level usually means you will have more discretion over outsourced spending, which ultimately benefits the partner’s pocket. With in-house searches, our clients looking for a Manager from the Big 4 are often flexible to seriously consider an Assistant Manager, or Senior Associate for the exact same post. The reason for this comes down to candidate-scarcity. There is a shortage of CTAs/ACAs. If you’re set on making the move in-house at some point, the candidate-scarcity at the newly qualified level provides you with a real opportunity to make a noticeable progression-jump, while still having the same developmental support and guidance systems in place for making that first transition in-house. Making the first step in-house becomes much more difficult at the Senior Manager level upwards, for three interdependent reasons: Once the business development responsibilities take hold at Senior Manager/Director level, will you want to walk away from this book of business and the relationships you have built? Would it not be better to gain in-house at the recently qualified level, and then perhaps return to practice as a Senior Manager, focusing on business development from there?  - The pyramid hierarchy of most companies dictate less positions exist.  - There are considerably more senior-level applicants than those at the more junior level. ​ - At the senior level, those already with in-house experience are invariably favoured. Bottom line: If your heart lies with the move in-house, stay in practice long enough to get what you need from it, but not long enough to get too comfortable. You will have much more options ran past you at the Assistant Manager/Manager level, rather than at the Senior Manager/Director level, with the latter serving as a bottleneck for those who ultimately never make the move. If you get to Senior Manager level, it’s a good idea to get some in-house secondment experience under your belt. 3 - Timing: Plan Your Job Search And Start Date The time when you decide to actually start looking at options in-house has a heavily understated influence on career progression. For the person who hasn’t planned ahead, the cues which prompt them into feeling ‘ready to look’ coincide with the markers they are actually ‘ready to move’. Here are the time-based factors which are overlooked: - The time of year. Things quieten down particularly in the holiday seasons. Are you confident that choosing to look in the summer, winter or Easter holidays will lead you to having enough options to look through? It might be the case you are on the market for a month before you find something suitable to even apply for. - The time spent on an interview process (or several processes). At the newly qualified level, we’ve placed candidates within a week, a fortnight and sometimes it can take a month or more, depending on the time of year and the process in question. - The length of your notice period. Surprisingly, this is the big one which nobody seems to plan ahead for. If you’re making the first move from practice and your notice period is project-status dependent, it might be the case that you’re able to negotiate your notice period way down a little – but be ready for this. Together, you might be looking at around a 4-6-month gap from the point when you are ‘ready to look’ versus ready to ‘move’. Imagine you move just three times in the next 10 years, and each time fail to start looking 4-6-month months prior to when you feel ready to move. If in 10 years you are applying at the Head of Tax level, you’ll likely be competing with a seemingly super-progressive candidate who have managed to progress through the ranks two years faster, due to no more merit than career planning alone. Bottom line: Distinguish between ‘ready to look’ and ‘ready to move’, and plan for those delay months well in advance. Know the shelf-life for your role, and then minus your notice period from your time spent ‘looking’, alongside the time you anticipate needing to find the right role and progress through processes. 4 - Don’t Focus Too Much On The CTA In-House Starting Salary Money will advance the cash in your pocket for today – but not necessarily your career for tomorrow. Becoming a newly qualified CTA opens career doors, and it’s an exciting time to see the options available to you jump in salary banding. Take this bluntly from a recruiter: I am rewarded as a proportion of your remuneration, and so it wouldn’t make sense for me to advise that you settle for anything less than the market rate. But even in the financial services markets (where the remuneration is usually higher than other in-house roles), too many just fall into the honeytrap of prioritising monetary gain in the short-term, and often at the cost of longer-term limitations. Negotiating a high salary at the newly qualified level might not help your incremental gains later. We’re in an age of gender pay-gap disputes and equality acts, and so there is a decreasing emphasis incremental pay-raises (e.g. the old-fashioned thinking of 10% salary increases). The reasoning here is that basing new salaries on the old simply exacerbates existing pay inequalities (watch this space). The times are moving, and salaries are now becoming increasingly based on market-demand for the candidate skillset offering (and rightly so). In 10 years time, when you are applying at the Head of Tax level (where the salaries can really jump up) – you won’t be chosen because of your sky-high financial requirement. You’ll be chosen for your business-case offering and what skills you can bring to the table. Bottom-line: speak to a recruiter you trust about the market-rate salary and know your bottom-line number for the right opportunity. From that starting point, try to prioritise everything non-salary related. If the role, company and career-route is right for you, the money will follow. 5 - Stay On Good Terms With Your Contacts In Practice Life is a village… and in London, Financial Services tax is a very small village indeed Tax is an incredibly small market and your effort to be nice to people should be twofold. Firstly, when you make the move in-house, make an active effort to stay on good terms with your contacts in practice. I’ve hired for some truly impressive heads of tax and have been repeatedly surprised to observe the differences in their ‘recruitability’, based on nothing other than reputation and contacts in practice. While one Global Head of Tax struggled to onboard anyone because they had a reputation for overworking their external advisors, the other would have a heap of support. I’m talking (free) Big 4 workshops, invites to key speaker events, ‘Heads of’ social gatherings and active contacts sending them transfer pricing juniors who were not looking, but came attached with glowing recommendations. Second, be nice to those pesky recruiters who buzz your phone to the point of combustion. Yes, while it might get irritating being hit-up repeatedly by those who would like to greet your shiny new CTA qualification with the job specification you’ve seen umpteen times, make the effort to be nice. When we headhunt seniors at the Head of Tax level, they are always friendly – in part because they don’t get called with options all-too-often. In the recruitment industry, the turnover of staff is very high, and the likelihood is that 99.9% of the recruiters you speak to won’t be in this market in 10 years. However, it will be the .01% who really matter. It will be this recruiter who remembers names from past conversations the best, knows your entire network and will have an abundance of ‘Heads of’ contacts who they can choose to approach or not. It will be this recruiter who the CFO asks for their opinion on your candidacy and standing. Bottom line: honour your commitments made to your network and be careful to protect your reputation. Your name in the industry says more than what you could write on a CV or job spec. For further advice about your job search in financial services tax, or if looking to make a move in-house, contact  Jay Sky, Pro-Tax’s financial services recruitment specialist at or call 020 7269 6343


Market Update from Pro-Group: Pat Keogh - Chairman January 2021

Hello, a quick update on the recruitment market from me, Pat Keogh, Chairman of the Pro-Recruitment Group. January 2021 We've been asked recently by a number of candidates "What's the state of the Market like?", and if you know us, we cover the Tax, Legal, Finance, Marketing & HR sectors. All five sectors are really strong, and we've been really pleased with the number of new vacancies registered by the organisations we work with. Surprisingly, 2020 was a very good year for a number of our clients, especially the professional services firms, law firms and accountancy firms. Even a lot of our Not-For-Profit sectors and tax commerce and industry surprisingly had a really good year. And that's been reflected by their levels of recruitment. We have a large number of vacancies we are looking to fill. It's really a character of the market, and that might be a surprise to a lot of people, but candidates and those now looking for new opportunities now have a really good choice of roles out there, clients are really keen to recruit and some have really aggressive growth plans. Many organisations are seeing this time as a good opportunity to grow their business and grow their headcount. If you are looking and considering moving, it's definitely worth exploring the market. Do call us, do explore our website and you will be really surprised to see the number of vacancies out there. Come and speak to us. We will give you good solid advice. We will always give you the best advice as to your career options. Ot's definitely a good market, so definitely give one of our team a call.


60 Seconds with: Orla Ralston, European Tax MD at OMERS

Orla Ralston is the European Tax MD at OMERS, one of Canada's largest defined benefit pension plans. Orla speaks with Jay Sky, Senior Consultant at Pro-Tax about life at OMERS, her impressive career and the opportunities which have surfaced in the face of the pandemic. Who is OMERS and what does the tax team look like?  We are a Canadian pension plan, serving over 500,000 pensioners based in Ontario that represent the retired employees of about 1000 municipalities such as school boards, libraries, police and fire departments. Part of what we do is to make investments that fund sustainable, meaningful pensions over the long term. Our asset classes include infrastructure, private equity (including ventures), real estate and capital markets.  Our tax team is truly global and covers a wide range of activity. The Global Head of Tax is based in Toronto and our team is divided across the Americas, Europe and APAC and by function: investment tax; tax for the enterprise; and, tax compliance. Of course, none of these areas are mutually exclusive, so inevitably there is a lot of collaboration across the regional and functional teams.  What does your role as MD of Investment Tax include, and what leadership roles do you play? I support our European businesses from a tax perspective on their investments – so I oversee European and UK-based tax professionals who focus on infrastructure, PE, real estate and associated European-wide issues. I also have a broader leadership role within the infrastructure business (beyond tax alone). One of the great things about OMERS is that we recognise each of us has something to offer. In my case, I have always believed that to do well in tax, you really need to engage with the investment team and understand their strategy, drivers, and the commercial rationale behind everything they do. This line of thinking has allowed me to bring another dimension to the leadership team and an element of influence across the London office. You have had an impressive career to date, having held positions in a Magic Circle law firm and a top tier investment bank. How would you compare life at OMERS to these earlier experiences? I joined Slaughter and May as a qualified Solicitor and learned my craft in practice. This involved learning the technical aspects of tax law while working on many different types of transactions, acting for multiple clients. I applied that experience in-house later when I worked at Goldman Sachs, and here - while I had the opportunity to make this role my own -  there was already an established tax team  within which I was able to develop my own  role Although my initial role at GS was to support the real estate investment business (part of the Merchant Banking Division), I saw gaps and opportunities to support a newly created infrastructure business, and then, more latterly, their private equity and debt funds. This was a great experience and how I discovered and learned what it is to be an in-house tax lawyer, and, in particular, how to be commercial in that role. After more than 11 years at GS I had seen a lot of deal activity and was able to bring that experience to OMERS. When I joined OMERS, I was the first European tax team member (in Infrastructure & PE). What I continue to enjoy is the level of integration into the deal teams and the opportunity to have a broader role; understanding and working with the businesses strategically, not purely from a tax perspective.  What made you join OMERS initially, and what might be surprising about the way the business operates? I had not been looking to leave my previous role at GS but OMERS clearly did something to convince me! First and foremost, it was the people. The calibre, intellect and friendliness of everyone I met at OMERS was appealing. Second the ‘pension promise’ was (and still is) a big draw for me. I loved every minute of my career before OMERS too – but knowing that your efforts enable people to retire with a decent pension is of massive importance, and I’m able to be a part of that.  Pension funds might sometimes be considered less active but OMERS has always been and continues to be very active with direct investment and a focus on asset management and value creation at the core of its investment strategy. The degree of sophistication at OMERS allows us to be very hands-on, which always keeps things interesting. How would you describe OMERS’ approach to diversity and inclusiveness? We have always been proactive in this area. There are several employee resource groups at OMERS, but we see diversity in so many other ways too. In London, what I love is that you will hear countless languages around the office; we have a truly global team. We also sponsor events and initiatives which facilitate social change: in 2020 for example our CFO led an event for International Coming Out Day in partnership with OTPP and CIBC, and from London we were joined by Aisha Thomas, Founder of Representation Matters Ltd, for an event for Black History Month - both of these were very powerful. Inevitably, this conversation is a continuing one, but there is certainly a healthy dialogue on this. What has the response to coronavirus been like at OMERS, and what opportunities have surfaced? Our leadership has been very decisive and provided clear direction from the start. First and foremost, the priority was to keep our people safe, and we’ve seen that throughout all levels of the organisation – supported by a lot of communication from our CEO with whom I feel more connected perhaps than ever before. Our IT team enabled a seamless transition to work from home literally overnight, which has allowed among other things a level playing field in terms of connectivity – we’re all in a box on a screen. We have the same means to interact, whether we’re on different sides of the same globe, or different sides of the same office. We can’t replace the human element of interaction of course, but we can do the virtual interactions well and keep a transparent and proactive approach. Now we are reaching out to our people for their views on how we can continue what have been some of the more positive aspects of these changes.  OMERS has a strong record of employee retention. What is it that motivates people to come to work each day? I think the pension promise has a lot to do with this – it’s not something we sit and talk about all day long, but there is this feeling of a common goal between us. In the tax team at OMERS, no two days are the same – there is just so much variety in what we do. Having just 4 of us in Europe means we cover a real breadth between us. We also have real autonomy and ownership. The organisation encourages an almost entrepreneurial attitude: ‘if you see something that makes sense to do, then go ahead and do it, show us why it makes sense’. You mentioned that perhaps one of the greatest assets at OMERS are the people – but also that this group is very diverse. So which type of person will fit into that team best? We encourage the mentality that nobody should underestimate what they can achieve and should not put themselves into a box. We are a team of people who want to make a difference – and while doing so, you can learn so much about investing, our assets, our portfolio. We invest in significant companies which matter in tangible terms – often providing essential services. That’s the joy of infrastructure for me personally. If you are curious, industrious and want to be part of a group who like working and having fun together, you might be a good fit for our team.  For more information on this article, contact Jay Sky on 020 7269 6343 or Back to 60 Seconds archive >>


60 Seconds with Michael Barnard, Head of Indirect Tax at BlackRock

Michael Barnard is the Head of Indirect Tax at BlackRock, the global investment manager. Michael speaks with Jay Sky, Senior Consultant at Pro-Tax about life at BlackRock, his career defining moments, and the upcoming challenges facing the next generation of tax professionals. BlackRock’s size and stature is market-leading, and a brand name in the financial services sector, but for anyone new to this industry, what do BlackRock actually do? BlackRock is a global investment manager and technology provider. We help investors of all types achieve their financial goals. How would you describe working at BlackRock? BlackRock is a fantastic place to work. There is always something new and challenging to get involved in. There is a powerful culture of collaboration across the entire business with a focus on delivering on our clients’ needs. One thing that has really struck me about working here is the level of intellectual rigour applied to what we do. We question everything and whilst it took me a while to get used to this challenge process to begin with, I realised that once you embrace it, you see just how powerful it can be. BlackRock’s clear and vocal stance on issues such as racial equality, diversity and sustainability makes me proud to work here. What does your role as Global Head of Indirect Tax entail? My role involves setting indirect policy and strategy across all of our global business lines. This encompasses advising on the indirect tax treatment of our services and products, dealing with tax authorities and audits, ensuring the control environment around indirect tax processes for Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable etc. are robust and scalable and staying on top of indirect tax developments worldwide. I do a lot of work with industry bodies to engage with governments and tax authorities to try and help shape indirect tax policy. One of my main priorities at the moment is ensuring that BlackRock is prepared to deal with the digitisation of tax compliance - the advent of Making Tax Digital for VAT in the UK and ISI in Spain being two current examples. There will be a lot more of this in the future and we need to be ready. What type of person does BlackRock keep an eye out for in tax? There’s no particular type, rather we look for people who are smart, obviously, and who can communicate well. So much of what we do involves dealing with internal and external stakeholders and being able to communicate clearly and effectively is vital. Also, we look for someone who thinks beyond the narrow confines of tax technical issues – we need to see what we do in a much wider context and to be able to navigate the tax implications of events like the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and the sustainability agenda. What challenges do you see the asset management industry facing in the near future, and how are BlackRock dealing with these? In a tax sense, a big challenge is preparing for the tech enabled tax authority – being required to provide huge amounts of data in real time in numerous different formats. Also, navigating changes to the VAT regime as it applies to asset management. Both the UK and the European Commission have announced reviews of how VAT works in our sector. It’s vital to stay close to these initiatives and to provide constructive input. What career-defining realisations have there been for you, and what have you learned at BlackRock? I’ve learned that it’s vital to have a good network if you want to have a successful and happy career, and that building your network takes time and effort - but it pays back. Your colleagues want to help you – sometimes you just need to ask them rather than waiting for them to offer. Understanding that you are never the ‘finished article’ is really important. Always be ready to broaden your skill set. Remember that you might not be the smartest person in the room! Listen actively and learn. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know something and be open to asking for help in understanding an issue. Taking some risks with your career, within reason, can have surprising results – in a good way. Learn how to distil complex issues into an understandable format for non-specialists. Senior leaders generally don’t want to go into the tax ‘weeds’ with you. Keep it brief. Your profile is a little unusual in that you never made the move into practice - you started your career at HMRC and have climbed to a very senior level in-house. How was the transition from HMRC for you, and what did you take from this experience? This was a long time ago! I enjoyed working for HMRC - it was Customs & Excise back then - and I learned a lot very quickly and worked with some great people. My time at HMRC gave me some useful insight into their organisation and processes which I think has been useful in helping me work effectively with HMRC officers since I left. The one thing I do remember is that the culture was different when I moved into industry, which took a bit of getting used to. However, looking back I realise that the culture shock was quite short-lived and the challenge of adapting to a new environment was something that I actually enjoyed. As the most senior figure for indirect taxation at BlackRock, how do you maintain your technical skill set? I make time to consume technical output from the accountancy and law firms as well as speaking to other VAT specialists in my network about current industry issues. I also try and stay close to what’s happening in our industry more generally, not just tax related content. I’m currently Chair of the Investment Association (IA) VAT Committee and also a member of the European Fund and Asset Management Association VAT Task Force (EFAMA). My involvement in these groups helps keep me up-to-date on a whole host of technical issues, not just VAT related, and puts me in contact with some of the best Asset Management VAT brains out there. What advice would you offer someone looking to shape enhance their tax career in asset management? Learn about the industry at a wider level – not just through a tax lens. A broader understanding will help shape better VAT decisions. Look to get involved in industry-level working groups – this will help build your profile, expose you to a wider range of technical issues and enable you to build your network. Be prepared to take some risks in order to develop. ​ For more information on this article, contact Jay Sky on 020 7269 6343 or Back to 60 Seconds archive >>


Are there some glimmers of festive hope yet for the Office Christmas Party?

esIt is no secret that Christmas will be a different one for so many reasons this year. COVID-19 has bulldozed its way through our way of living and working the whole year and it’s ramifications socially, emotionally, economically and professionally will no doubt be felt for years to come. It is a very different December to last or to what we could have ever expected. Many of us are working from home in makeshift offices, meetings have become virtual and our business attire certainly looks different. Figures have come out to show that only 19% of companies have planned Christmas gatherings for staff (down from 71% last year who booked venues) and nearly 40% of British businesses have cancelled plans completely. This will have an estimated knock on effect to the hardest hit hospitality sector at a further £717million in lost revenue the average company spend on employees of £49.90 for their end of year celebrations. But that doesn’t mean that we can simply let COVID-19 become The Grinch who stole Christmas. Whilst the ‘normal’ Christmas party will not be going ahead, there are in fact a number of other ways to spread a little festive cheer, and this year we certainly need it! BDO has published an article detailing that in fact HMRC is offering some seasonal goodwill and is extending its staff parties concession this year to apply to costs associated with hosting virtual parties. These concessions will be treated the same way as if the celebrations were usually held; providing food, entertainment, equipment etc. It is important to note that HMRC will still be applying the very strict rules; The cost of providing the benefit does not exceed £50 The benefit is not cash or a cash voucher (eg a premium bond) The employee is not entitled to the benefit as part of any contractual obligation (including under salary sacrifice) The benefit is not provided in recognition of particular services performed by the employee as part of their employment duties (or in anticipation of such services). The good news is that much of the costs associated with your virtual office Christmas arty will be tax deductible as with previous years. Another truly Christmas - spirited and entrepreneurial idea to combat the cancelled parties is Xmas Party Heroes. This is a new campaign urging businesses to donate their redundant Christmas party budget to charity. For many businesses with an unspent budget it is an effective and simple solution which they may not have thought of. Any business can donate to any cause, all you do is let #xmaspartyheroes how much you have pledged so they can keep track of the running total (currently at £1,26m as I write this). Mark Hawthorn, CEO of Lanmark Group says “We can’t have an Xmas Party, and it didn’t feel fair to just retain the funds as charities are more in need than ever. So, we will simply give the funds (and more) to charity” Lastly there is of course the option to carry something over to next year where we can all come together and celebrate as one again. Celebrate Christmas, celebrate being together again, celebrate our hard work and efforts of 2020. This is the route we have gone down at Pro Recruitment and like an unopened perfectly wrapped present waiting under the tree that I cannot wait. However you are celebrating Christmas this year, I wish you a happy and prosperous one.


900km run for CALM charity

With the impact of the pandemic this year taking a huge toll on people’s mental wellbeing, myself and 8 others at Pro-Recruitment Group have decided to raise money for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) a small but growing charity, to support their campaigns, increase awareness, and offer our support. ​ Sadly, suicide rates have increased dramatically in both male and female in 2020, with Male suicide rate being at the highest for two decades. CALM is leading a movement against suicide, the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. CALM runs a free and confidential helpline 0800 58 58 58 and webchat 7 hours a day, 7 days a week for anyone who needs to talk about life’s problems, as well as help from other organisations.  CALM has experienced a record surge in demand for our helpline recently… 37% more daily calls in the first week of the Spring lockdown, to be precise. That’s why, during this second lockdown, myself, Rebecca English, Jennifer Nelson, Kevin Racher, Ashleigh Polakiewicz, Dominic Watt, Chris Davey, Tom Eagle and George Tatnell are aiming to run 100km each during a 30 day period to raise money and awareness for CALM, and hopefully improving our own mental wellbeing at the same time! With fundraising events being cancelled due to the pandemic, this charity needs our help more than ever - help fund CALM's life-saving helpline and webchat. Just £8 pays for a call that could turn someone’s life around. We understand that times are tough, however if you would like to donate, please visit our JustGiving funding page, where any donation is extremely appreciated. Stay tuned to socials for updates on our progress!               



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