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November 2, 2016

VAT in the GCC: Who is hiring?

As the region is expecting to introduce the new tax, companies are assessing their requirements for VAT professionals. We look at who has begun their hiring with the VAT sector this year...

VAT in the GCC: Who is hiring?
Cooper Fitch Dubai
Cooper Fitch Dubai
Cooper Fitch Dubai
Cooper Fitch Dubai

Earlier this year I published an article outlining the potential impact that VAT could bring onto the workforce in the GCC. Back then it provoked numerous discussions with our candidates and clients, especially on the topic of VAT recruitment. 

In a recent discussion with Cooper Fitch, a senior tax leader for one of the Big 4s stated that companies are expected to start hiring VAT staff once the GCC framework is finalised. However, even before the framework is rolled out some companies in the GCC are being proactive and have already hired relevant talent. This blog provides an insight into how GCC business has responded to the VAT introduction so far from the perspective of talent acquisition. 

Practice firms  
With no surprise, professional practice firms with Big 4 leading the pack were the first to initiate recruitment of VAT professionals in the region. Since most of the VAT work currently is focused on preliminary consultations, planning and VAT impact assessments, these firms mainly required top level professionals. However, with the framework expected to be released soon, Big 4 started to recruit junior VAT specialists who  will be hands on involved in the actual implementation. On the contrary,  Big 6 and other professional services firms seem to be behind the curve.

It should be noted that some Big 4 firms use internal global mobility options and second VAT staff from other offices outside the region. This can indicate that practice firms may not need all the professionals used for the VAT implementation in order to cope with further compliance and ad-hoc advisory.

Industry firms
Big 4 firms are full steam ahead, whereas industry is just gearing up. Business has proven to be more accurate when it comes to adding relevant skills to their finance departments or creating separate Tax/VAT functions. It seems that so far organisations have been taking their time to understand the impact VAT will bring on their operations. Moreover, there has been uncertainty with the release of the regional framework which is the major factor in delaying further hiring of VAT specialists.

On the contrary, some firms have already hired experts with relevant VAT skill set. In particular; diversified local conglomerates, financial services firms, FMCG and energy organisations. Interestingly, firms are deploying different staffing strategies: some are hiring senior level executives that will drive the VAT implementation and subsequently lead the function, while others are adding junior level staff to already existing tax functions or traditional finance departments.

Recruitment activity across the GCC

United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are the most active markets when it comes to VAT recruitment so far. This is mainly due to the size of the economies as well as commitments to introduce VAT in 2018. Although, businesses in other GCC states are interested in the matter, their recruitment activities has been relatively passive at this stage.   

Candidates on demand

As it was expected, candidates with previous Indirect Tax implementation experience are most on demand. Typically it is related to professionals coming from Malaysia, Australia and Lebanon that implemented VAT/GST in 2015, 2000 and 2002 respectively. Furthermore, GCC companies traditionally prefer tax professionals from the UK, Ireland and other European countries, given the complexity and maturity of those jurisdictions. South Africa has also proven to be a market with relevant talent pool.   

From the skill set perspective, the demand for practice firms is skewed towards systems and advisory capabilities with compliance secondary. In the same time, industry firms are looking for a fine balance between advisory, compliance and relevant systems skills. 

Cooper Fitch is closely following news on VAT introduction in the GCC and involved extensively in VAT recruitment initiatives; we will be publishing the next blog on VAT recruitment forecast shortly.

If you are an employer planning on recruiting staff or are looking for a new role within tax and VAT in particular, then we'd be happy to assist you. Feel free to contact me for a consultation.

 

Viacheslav Shakhov By Viacheslav Shakhov

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