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June 24, 2018

VAT Implementation in the GCC: Big 4’s loss in talent; Industry’s Gain?

The need for experienced tax professionals is becoming increasingly recognized and the Big 4 is the immediate obvious choice.

Recruitment UAE
Cooper Fitch Dubai
Cooper Fitch Dubai
Cooper Fitch Dubai
Cooper Fitch Dubai

VAT has been the buzzword in the GCC market since 2017 and it will continue to be so this year as well. The announcement of the tax implementation caused the relatively tax-department-free industry to seek out the Big 4 and other audit consulting firms for help in order to prepare for the rollout and ensure that they are compliant with the tax laws. Post the initial preparation, the answer to the question “Do I need a tax department?” has been revealed and as a result, internal teams to deal with tax-related issues on a full-time basis are being created within the industry. The need for experienced tax professionals is becoming increasingly recognized and the Big 4 is the immediate obvious choice.

BIG 4 v/s the INDUSTRY

Using the knowledge and experience gained in the Big 4 to secure a position and grow within the industry is the career plan for a considerable number of consulting firm professionals. Unfortunately, the recent past opportunities have been scant and the competition has been exceedingly tight. However, the current situation has played out in favour of the Big 4 tax professionals from across the globe and particularly in the GCC. Due to the implemented VAT, they are getting hand-picked by the industry and are getting offered attractive salary packages which consequently caused a considerable brain drain in Big 4.

Data from the Cooper Fitch Salary Survey for 2018 states that the average salary of a Director level role in the Big 4 is circa AED 50,000 per month plus standard benefits, while a role of the same stature in the industry is priced at around AED 65,000 per month plus standard benefits. The same stands true for roles across all grades in the Big 4. The wide gap between the salaries along with the supersonic work pace within the Big 4 further weakens its position in the current market..

According to market experts, the Big 4 lost 800 employees to the industry in the past year post the shift from VAT to GST in India last year and the situation is still ongoing. The GCC itself has witnessed certain shifts of key tax professionals from the Big 4 to the industry in 2016 and the trend has been ongoing. Albeit, a cause of concern for the Big 4, this opens up avenues for experienced tax professionals from across the globe to move to the Middle East and live the consulting life in the Big 4.

Therefore, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the roll out of VAT makes the GCC an emerging-candidate-driven-market for tax professionals and gives them the chance to be a part of both the industry and the Big 4 depending on their experience in the field.

For more information on the market and potential opportunities in the tax field please feel free to drop a line to Christine N. Mathew, Associate Consultant, Tax at cmathew@cooperfitch.ae

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