Speaking to Accountants Daily, Brewer Morris partner Mark Pryor said his firm has seen the busiest start to the first quarter of the year for the last three years, mirroring the increased demand for specialised tax roles in the industry.
“I think overall, over the last few years, there’s been a desperate shortage of transfer pricing and employment tax and global mobility candidates,” said Mr Pryor.
“In the last three to six months we’ve certainly seen an increase in demand in private client work or private client needs and also indirect tax specialists, and within that, indirect tax lawyers or stamp duty tax lawyers are really in demand.”
Further, Mr Pryor also said he is seeing a great demand from clients for accountants in in-house roles after years of cost-cutting measures.
“This is driven by the fact that so many in-house tax functions are being scaled back and restructured over the years as part of broader cost-cutting exercises, there’s the absolute bare bones of a tax function now in-house and there's no spare capacity in terms of headcount and people can only cover for so long,” said Mr Pryor.
“As the overall economic fortunes of large Australian businesses have started to improve in the last year or two, then I think the budget, headcounts and restraints have started to loosen a little bit so heads of tax are given a bit of budget to go out and recruit people either to add back headcount that’s been cut a few years ago or actually start to bring in skill sets that they haven’t had to bring in-house before.”
Despite the rising demand, Mr Pryor believes accountants hoping for a salary spike this year will have to curb their expectations as firms continue to play their cards close to their chests.
“Tax salaries have been fairly flat in recent years; there’s not been a lot of salary inflation if you were to look at it across the board compared to other parts of the market,” explained Mr Pryor.
“At the more senior levels, the opposite has actually happened – we’ve had salary deflation because somebody leaves on $180,000, they get replaced at $150,000. If somebody leaves at $220,000, they try to replace at $180,000; there’s been a cutting back on costs when people do leave.
“The accounting firms who recruit more than anybody else at the entry level or up to manager level have managed to keep a lid on salaries without having to chase the market,” he added.
“It’s a wait-and-see approach because it will be interesting to see if they can continue to suppress a salary inflation, but at the moment firms are sticking hard to their internal salary grading and they’re not breaking them so they’re not chasing the market.”
Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.