STOCK Corporate tax
The demand set off for tax specialists by UAE's corporate tax rollout far exceeds anything seen during the VAT launch, say industry sources. And hiring for talent still has more room to grow. Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal/Gulf News and Shutterstock

Dubai: If anyone asks about the job category with the fastest and highest hiring rates in the UAE, don’t look beyond tax auditors and specialists. The hiring process continues even as the UAE Corporate Tax formally launched on June 1, with industry sources saying there are still more positions to be filled.

Where they are not getting filled internally, businesses are contracting those tasks to outside audit firms, which are expanding their own workforce to cope with the demand rush.

At the manager level, the salary structure for a tax auditor would vary between Dh18,000 to Dh24,000 a month depending on the firm. Entry level salaries and incentives too have improved in the last 6-8 months, while candidates are lining up 10-25 per cent increases in their take-homes when they make the jump to a new employer.

So, is hiring of tax auditors in ‘surge’ mode? Shibu Abraham, Director – Human Resources at the consultancy Kreston Menon, stops short of saying that a surge is on. “There is demand for qualified and experienced tax consultants and auditors,” he said. “We have seen an increase of 10 per cent in our staff strength this year, mostly at entry and mid-level.

“We have a structured career path for auditors, where most of them join as trainees or associates and who over time get promoted to senior auditors, supervisors and managers.”

Audit industry sources say that more specialist tax firms will launch in the coming weeks, and they too will get onto the hiring spree. “Not every business can afford to have an in-house team of tax specialists, which is why outsourcing offers a big opportunity,” said an auditor. “These new businesses are either launching on their own and hope to gradually build up a clientele, or opt for joint ventures to speed up the process.”

Shibu Abraham of Kreston Menon
"Skillsets required for direct tax (i.e., corporate tax) and indirect tax (VAT) are completely different," said Shibu Abraham of Kreston Menon.

More graduates enter the fray

It’s also a good time for new tax professionals to seek their chances in a trending job market. This week, Dubai’s DIFC Academy saw the passing out of the first 28 candidates who went through the UAE Corporate Tax Diploma Programme, run in tandem with PwC Middle East. Some of them had already passed the Final Certificate Examination provided by ATT-UK.

At the DIFC Academy, they went through a ‘condensed’ 30-day programme that equips them ‘to guide companies in complying with the new UAE corporate tax requirements’.

That’s exactly what the market wants.

“Finance professionals have gained the practical knowledge and skills to successfully ensure that all practices, systems, and processes of their respective companies comply with the new tax regime,” said Christian Kunz, Chief Strategy, Innovation & Ventures Officer at DIFC Authority.

The graduation of the first cohort of the UAE Corporate Tax Diploma programme marks a significant milestone for DIFC Academy. It demonstrates our commitment to providing industry-relevant education to broaden the skills of the financial services community

- Christian Kunz of DIFC Authority

Everyone’s hiring

“The Big 4 and other top accounting firms are looking for qualified and experienced auditors and tax consultants who can combine tech knowhow with their finance and taxation skills,” said Abraham.

“We had seen many individual tax consultants moving to the UAE to capitalize on the opportunities thrown open by the introduction of VAT a few years ago. We have also recently seen emergence of tax boutique firms.”

Other industry sources say that the current buzz around hiring tax professionals far exceeds anything during the launch of the VAT regime in 2018.

“It will be no exaggeration to say that tax professionals are among the most active when it comes to registering for UAE’s Golden Visa program,” said a consultant. “The rush is unprecedented.”

Is every UAE business up to speed on tax?

Registering for the corporate tax continues apace, but there is still time to start the process towards tax filings and making sure the books are in order.

“Companies are increasingly outsourcing their tax functions to external tax consultants or firms,” said Abraham. “This approach is prevalent among many businesses, especially SMEs that might not have the resources or expertise to handle complex tax matters in-house.”

Which is why ‘to attract and retain the right talent, there is always a cost involved.”

It’s all showing up in the frenetic hiring in the UAE for auditors. Particularly those who specialise on tax matters.