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Deloitte’s Talent reimagined report reveals hybrid skillsets in high demand for tax professionals

Study uncovers tax and finance leaders’ need for talent expertise in digital business models (65%), supply-chain restructuring (49%) and sustainability (48%).

NEW YORK, NY, USA, 11 October 2021 – Deloitte today announced the launch of Talent reimagined, the second report in its three-part Tax Transformation Trends series, which surveyed more than 300 tax and finance executives globally, examining how the current environment is affecting talent within tax and finance departments. Companies are asking their tax functions to play a bigger advisory role, providing strategic counsel on issues such as emerging digital business models and sustainable transformation. Tax leaders are also transforming their technology infrastructures to free up team capacity, operate more efficiently and use data more effectively. The research shows that while most tax leaders have a clear vision of the future of their function, one in which the department’s operating model and its role in the business have been transformed, the skills they need are in scarce supply.

“The challenge for tax leaders will be integrating these multiple capabilities in tax, technology and advisory into their teams,” says Andy Gwyther, Deloitte Global Operate Leader, Tax & Legal. “To do this, leaders need to recruit the talent, develop it internally, buy access to it through consultants and other third-party providers, and pair the right combinations of specialists. We are helping many of our clients navigate this journey. All this change is, of course, happening during an unprecedented global shift to remote and hybrid working.”

The future of work: tax reimagined

This new research reveals how tax departments are reshaping how work gets done; the skills that make up the workforce; and how the workplace is defined:

Work: There are dramatic shifts under way in how tax work is done. For instance, deeper automation is a top priority for 41% of tax leaders surveyed in terms of changing how compliance processes are managed, which will alter the day-to-day roles of tax professionals.

Workforce: Tax leaders recognise that their teams need entirely new technical skills, with data analytics (45%) and technology transformation (43%) at the top of their wish lists. However, these team members also need to flex their cross-business advisory (39%) and interfacing and education (35%) skills. This means they must upskill and diversify the roles on their teams to meet increasing business advisory demands.

Workplace: Hybrid and remote-working models have become the norm more quickly than anyone envisioned pre-pandemic and 78% of tax leaders say they are here to stay. Now, they must refine these models and make them sustainable. At the top of their agendas: new approaches to talent recognition and career development, and technology and workflow adaptation.

The hybrid-skilled employee: The elusive tax unicorn
At the top of tax and finance leaders’ wish lists are those rare individuals who combine technology skills with a deep understanding of tax and finance processes and data. The survey revealed the top two desired competencies are data science skills and technology transformation.

The interpreter/advisor

A key role for hybrids, once found, is to act as interpreters. Future tax professionals will need to be able to talk knowledgeably with other parts of the business. The survey identified a clear requirement for such capabilities in the areas of digital business models (65%), supply-chain restructuring (49%), and sustainability (48%). The tax leaders who say their teams are good at demonstrating additional value creation are more optimistic about the prospect of increasing their resources, with 49% of respondents noting the tax teams that deliver highly effective scenario modelling to support business decision making expect to increase their headcount, compared with just 28% of those whose scenario modelling is ineffective.

Power pairings

Whichever route companies take to develop hybrid tax-technology professionals, it will take time. In the meantime, leaders are pairing technology specialists with business analysts or other specialists in the wider finance team to combine their expertise on specific projects or turning to outside parties who have extensive experience in technology and transformation.

Build vs. buy

To address the technology gap, tax and finance leaders are reconfiguring their teams more efficiently, recognising that not all their resources need to be full-time employees. Some are finding it easier and more effective to buy access to external talent with specialised tax-technology skills, rather than trying to build it internally by recruiting and training their own in-house teams. The same goes to address the increased need for specialised tax expertise. Leaders are re-thinking which expertise is core to their business, deciding whether they need niche expertise in-house or whether they are better off buying access to it through external advisors who are specialised in the topic.

A new paradigm for tax talent

“For the leaders of tax functions, building teams with this array of capabilities is a tall order,” says Phil Mills, Deloitte Global Tax & Legal Leader. “They need to reimagine the tax function, examining the what, the who, and the where of their operating model and how they will find and develop the people to deliver on the function’s elevated objectives. As complex as the challenges are, tax leaders do not have the luxury of addressing them at their own pace. Technology, regulation and the wider business environment are evolving steadily and rapidly. Tax transformation—of the function itself and the talent models that support it—must match or, better still, outpace them.”

About the Deloitte Tax Transformation Trends Survey

This tax talent-focussed research is the second of a three- part series Deloitte is producing in 2021 and 2022, engaging tax and finance executives at companies to understand their strategies for tax operations, talent and technology. For this second report, Deloitte collectively surveyed 304 senior leaders—including over 100 heads of tax and CFOs—at a range of companies across industries operating in 5 or more countries across Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region, to understand their future vision for the tax function and how they plan to get there. Deloitte also conducted a series of in-depth one-on-one interviews with tax leaders and academic institutions to garner even more insight. To dive deeper into these findings, you can view the full report here.