Human capital tax recruitment – The past 12 months and looking to the future

Author Sarah Reid
February 2, 2024

2023 was a busy year for many within the human capital tax world and, it looks likely that this trend will continue. Whilst the volume of recruitment over the last 12 months has been lower than what we saw in 2022, there has still been a good degree of recruitment activity and some excellent roles available in the market.

The debate around hybrid working is still alive and kicking. Whilst many organisations look to encourage or enforce more days in the office, there are a number who continue to use their flexibility as a tool to attract and retain talent. It seems many are still struggling to balance offering the autonomy to employees to decide how they work and when they work, whilst also ensuring the right support is available for more junior employees, collaboration opportunities are not being missed and organisation culture is not diluted.

The economic headwinds of the past 12 months have meant that the pay rises and uplifts in salary to move that we saw in 2022 have not been replicated and we expect this to remain the case through the first half of 2024. As a result, it is likely there will be a continued focus on well-being and wider benefit packages to engage, motivate and attract employees to ensure optimum performance.

Whilst the number of counteroffers may have reduced, it is still happening for many as the ability to replace key hires is not as forthcoming as it may have been previously. Individuals looking to move are continuing to be driven by remuneration packages. However, the basic salary has held more weight than before in recognition that most bonuses are not guaranteed and are to a degree market dependent.

Global mobility

Most of the demand within global mobility remained at Manager level and below in 2023, however there were several notable appointments made at Director and Partner level. The senior appointments made were typically with firms who looked to invest in their future by hiring talent that would complement their existing teams and grow new revenue streams. As these senior appointments get settled, we will see further activity as they build out teams below them.

The remote work evolution continues to drive most of the new work for many organisations especially as we have seen traditional expatriate populations being redefined in the wake of an increasing focus on ESG and technology. It remains clear, having spoken to many tax professionals working in-house, that there is still a lot of work to be done around defining policies, implementing them, and ensuring they support the talent agenda. As a result, global mobility tax specialists within the profession will likely remain in demand to be able to support their clients with these issues throughout 2024.

Employment tax

Over the past 12 months, several professional services firms have looked to increase headcount at all levels within their employment tax teams and this demand shows no sign of abating. Employment tax has often been touted as the largest tax cost for organisations and therefore it comes as no surprise that HMRC continues to shine an increasing spotlight on it. Coupled with this, IR35, national minimum wage and gender pay gap reporting, have all created more work for organisations and kept their advisors who support them busy ensuring they remain compliant. With a significant talent shortage for individuals with the right depth of knowledge in employment tax, we have seen several global mobility tax professionals look to broaden their experience in this area and future proof their careers. As talent continues to be sought, we anticipate firms will need to continue to be creative around how they retain and attract the right individuals within employment tax.

Reward

Like employment tax, reward is an area that continued to be in high demand in 2023. We have spoken to many in-house professionals who have been busy reviewing their company benefit offerings to ensure they are fit for purpose, as well as organisations looking to implement or review current equity schemes to ensure they are in the best position possible to retain and attract the right talent. This has led to more demand for accountancy firms and law firms acting as their advisors in this area and resulted in several appointments at all levels being made. This trend looks set to continue throughout 2024 and as a result individuals who have share schemes or reward experience, either from a UK or international perspective, are likely to be in demand.

In-house

From an in-house perspective, a number of organisations made their first human capital tax appointment in 2023 and several making replacement or new hires within existing teams. First time hires were typically permanent, however there was also demand for professionals to work on an interim basis. Interim support is usually required when there is a specific project to be undertaken and the long-term need is unclear. Most of them tend to be made permanent once the contract has been completed as the value that a human capital tax professional can bring to an in-house tax function is fully realised and therefore the business case built.

Stand-alone in-house human capital tax roles have typically encompassed all areas – global mobility, reward and employment tax. They typically attract Senior Manager level or above equivalent as they require a huge amount of autonomy and gravitas to be able to execute. The demand at Manager and Assistant Manager level in-house has been to work with more experienced professionals and as part of a team. The desire to move in-house from the profession is still a common trend, whether this is to get away from the pressure of business development as people rise through the ranks, to enjoy a different work/life balance or to be able to play part in the full solution not just the advising.

“Overall, I anticipate 2024 will see several new appointments made within existing in-house tax functions as well as replacement hires, with a need for all round advisors as well as specialists.”

Sarah Reid, Executive Director, Brewer Morris

For more information on the human capital tax market please contact Sarah Reid.

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