VAT: Contemplating moving in-house? When’s the optimum time to make that move?
No doubt about it, a VAT consultancy career in a Big 4 firm can be an immensely rewarding experience. Excellent clients to work with, often with highly complex problems to find solutions for. You’ll have a structured career path, and enjoy a real sense of camaraderie as you progress upwards through the ranks. The professional experience you get, and the financial rewards that come with that can be superb.
However, for some VAT specialists in a Big 4 VAT consultancy environment, there can be the niggling thought in the back of one’s mind about whether one should choose to take your VAT expertise into an in-house setting. Maybe it’s the increase in emphasis on business development the further down your Consultancy career you get, maybe it’s the thought of making a real difference to a company’s tax position, maybe it’s the idea of focusing more exclusively in a particular sector. Or maybe you’re just sick of timesheets?
In addition, you could be thinking that you could do with some time in-house to round off your professional and technical exposure, for you to take back to a Big 4 firm later in your career.
The most frequent question we here at BLT are asked is: ‘When’s the best point in my career to consider moving in-house?’ We hope that the following statistics will go some way to answering this question.
Looking at all the in-house VAT positions that were appointed in the UK between Jan 2014 – Dec 2015, and converting them into typical Big 4 grading classifications:
3% arose at the Director level pitch
15% arose at the Senior Manager level pitch.
50% arose at the Manager level pitch. Typically advisory focused, plus some compliance management.
14% arose at the Assistant Manager level pitch. Typical focus is on compliance management, plus assisting one or more senior VAT specialists with advisory work.
18% arose at the Assistant level pitch. These are usually (but not always) compliance/’number crunching’ roles.
It’s very clear that the ‘need’ in-house from a volume perspective is at the Big 4 Manager level equivalent. The more senior you get, the rarer the opportunity.
The headline figure is 24% of all those starting new permanent VAT in-house roles between January 2014 and December 2015 came from a Big 4 VAT advisory position. This should not be a huge surprise; given that any in-house Indirect Tax compliance driven appointments are much more likely to go to those currently doing similar positions in another commercial organisation. Simultaneously a good number of advisory roles that arise in industry and f/s institutions go to those with existing experience of working in-house.
So of the UK based roles that did indeed go to someone latterly working in a VAT advisory capacity in one of the Big 4 accountancy firms, from what grade did most of those appointments take place nationally?
4% from a Big 4 VAT Director grade
38% from a Big 4 VAT Senior Manager grade
40% from a Big 4 VAT Manager grade
16% from a Big 4 VAT Assistant Manager/Senior Associate grade
2% from a Big 4 VAT Assistant/Associate grade
So when’s the best time to consider going in-house?
· Director grade – in-house roles are very rare, and when they do arise, don’t often go to Big 4 VAT specialists
· Senior Manager grade – in-house roles are very rare, but when they do arise, you’re in with a decent shout of getting it.
· Manager grade – in-house roles are comparatively frequent, and you’ve got a good chance of getting it.
· Assistant Manager grade – there are some in-house roles that arise, and you may get one.
· Assistant grade – a decent proportion of roles arise, but given they’re compliance driven, they wouldn’t usually appoint from a Big 4 firm.
In summary, if in-house is the career route you think you’d like to go down, we’d suggest that the ideal time to start looking at moving in-house would be as you are moving up from VAT Assistant Manager to Manager grade. Once you’re at Manager grade, don’t leave it too long before moving, as when you start to near Senior Manager grade, the volume of opportunities decrease considerably.
For advice on how to get the best out of your Indirect Tax career, whether that be in a professional services firm or in-house, contact BLT’s specialist Indirect Tax recruitment team on 00 44207 405 3404.
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