Q. I think you are the only recruitment firm globally to specialise in indirect tax. Does this niche give you an advantage ?
Yes, I think you’re right, I can’t think of other tax recruiters who specialise exclusively and solely on Indirect Tax recruitment. Our philosophy at BLT is to offer ‘inch wide, mile deep’ knowledge of the markets in which we operate and this vertical certainly gives us unrivalled knowledge of the market and the individuals within it. When BLT was founded all the way back in 1987, we saw that the opportunity that the growth of Indirect Tax discipline would present, and in those early years helped establish the accountancy firms’ early VAT consultancy offerings in the UK. Over the last 30 years, we’ve grown up with the discipline: the 90’s were characterised by some of the early moves in-house and overseas, vast growth of the larger accountancy firms and the establishment of the Indirect Tax graduate training programmes in the UK, all of which BLT were heavily involved in – and the opportunities have multiplied ever since! Of course those placements at the time are the leaders of today, and therefore our network of Indirect Tax contacts has grown exponentially since. Our longevity and market focus sees us working in partnership with the key Indirect Tax players on thought leadership, strategy, and of course recruitment.
Q. In the UK is it still possible for graduates who have trained with HMRC to move into the accounting profession ?
Very much so. Its all about aptitude for Indirect Tax Consultancy, and the ability to switch to what is in effect a different way of working. The ideal time to move from the department is somewhere between 18 months to 4 years of VAT assurance/enquiries experience, although more experienced HMRC professionals occasionally make the switch (but that’s a real rarity). HMRC candidates who move early can be trained in the art of consultancy that much more easily, and therefore align more comfortably with the firms’ own graduate appointments.
Q. Do you focus primarily on VAT or do you manage recruitment campaigns for other areas of indirect tax, like International Trade & Customs for example ?
All areas of Indirect Tax! We recruit for those rare IPT and Stamp Duty positions for instance, but the main area outside of VAT is indeed Customs & International Trade. This discipline looks very different to what it did ten years ago, and BLT have been at the forefront of recruitment efforts in this field. It’s been great to see the increase in numbers of roles arising in recent years – we’re still not talking about floods, but the signs are good for the continued growth of this field. In addition, Export Control teams often sit neatly alongside Customs departments and over the last few years my colleague Emma Wade has developed the BLT offering in this field considerably.
Q. A number of countries are considering introducing VAT legislation in the coming years. Do you see opportunities for UK indirect tax specialists in search of a bit of adventure ?
Certainly. I remember when GST was introduced in Australia back in 2000; BLT helped a large number of UK Indirect Tax specialists move down under in those early years – many of whom are still there! In the current climate though, one suspects that development of Indirect Tax teams in certain countries may be a little more piecemeal – language barriers, VISA restrictions and in some cases ability to offer attractive packages will all potentially be issues to overcome.
Q. I have noticed that Customs specialists seem to be able to move from one jurisdiction to another relatively easily. Do you think that indirect tax specialists are increasingly able transfer their skills from one country to another ?
Appropriate Customs & International trade skills are indeed very transportable, and its less of an issue moving countries. VAT expertise is ‘on paper’ also very transportable, but in reality it’s much harder than you might envisage. There are distinct cultural differences between working in VAT on mainland Europe to working in the UK for instance, and therefore in most cases, its very hard for those who have gained VAT experience in other jurisdictions to secure roles in the UK. Similarly, its rare to see those without practical experience of European Indirect Tax secure the positions that crop up on mainland Europe – the competition from the existing population tends to preclude any such moves.
Q. What predictions do you make for the indirect tax market during 2016 ?
The signs are good we feel. There’s a steady stream of in-house Indirect Tax appointments taking place (mainly in the UK, with the occasional one arising on mainland Europe). It’s been a great to see a larger number of more senior in-house appointments arising over the last year (more of a rarity in the downturn) which evidences the increasing profile of Indirect Tax for businesses. The effective and strategic management of EMEA VAT compliance (often via technological innovation) will remain the watchword for many businesses – and one of the biggest challenges for the Indirect Tax fraternity will be the development of expertise in this area; there’s simply not enough of it to go round. Looking at practice, many of the larger consultancy firms are also gearing themselves for further growth as the year goes on, and are adapting their offering to the changing needs of their client base. Candidate shortage remains the biggest barrier to growth globally – there are currently not enough trainee VAT specialists entering the discipline initially to feed the demand for expertise at Manager level upwards a few years down the line. On the Customs Duty side, new legislation coming into effect 1st May 2016 will put Customs firmly on the agenda for many businesses, creating further opportunity for specialists in this field. More and more senior VAT specialists in both industry and practice are fulfilling wider corporate roles in their businesses, and we expect this trend to continue – a great indication of the profile of Indirect Tax currently.
Some recent placements made by BLT:
VAT Partner, Big 4, London
Customs Partner, Big 4, Singapore
VAT Partner, Mid-tier, Regional UK location
Global Head of Indirect Tax, Media Company, London
Head of VAT, Business Services Provider, London
Head of IPT, Insurance Company, London
EU VAT Senior Manager, On-line Retailer, London
VAT Senior Manager, Mid-tier, London
Indirect Tax Manager, Global Information Company, Amsterdam
4 x VAT Managers, Investment Companies, London & Surrey
VAT Manager, Law firm, London
Customs Manager, Group A Firm, London
4 x VAT Compliance Managers, Aerospace, Retail, Pharma & Automotive Co’s, Home Counties
Indirect Tax Advisory Assistant Manager, Media Company, London
EU VAT Accountant, Trading Co, London
VAT Accountant, Bank, Edinburgh
a Director at Beament Leslie Thomas. You can contact him on 020 7405 3404 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. To view the current tax assignments that BLT is managing, please .