Talent War Dispatch: What Tax Technologists Want from Employers

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“All business functions, including tax and finance departments, are facing difficulties attracting and retaining the right talent.”

As someone who often thinks about the connection between tax technology and tax talent, I was encouraged to see that point emphasized in a new EY survey report that examines how companies can optimize the value of their tax and finance technology investments. 

Tax leaders have experienced increasing difficulty finding, hiring and keeping tax technologists in recent years. Although challenging economic conditions may ease the demanding labor market at some point in the future, that change seems unlikely to provide much relief to tax functions struggling to attract and retain technical tax experts who possess data and technology skills. The competition for this talent is fierce and unlikely to abate, regardless of whether rising rates trigger a recession and subsequent cost-cutting that increases the size of candidate pools. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently reported  that its Worker Shortage Index – which compares people who want a job and are available to work now (available workers) to employer job openings – “has fallen precipitously in recent months.” Today, there are only 1.4 available workers for every job opening in the country, half of the average seen over the past two decades (2.8). That data is based on all job openings across all industries. The Worker Shortage Index shows that there are only an average of .96 available workers for every opening at companies in the professional and business services sector (a segment that includes public accounting and consulting firms). 

The EY survey findings confirm that companies across most industries remain hungry for tax technologists: 95% of respondents report that their companies will augment their tax technical skills with data and technology skills “at least a moderate extent” in the next three years; 53% of respondents say they will do the same to a “large extent” or “very large extent.”

So, what can tax leaders and managers do to attract and retain technologically skilled tax professionals? Part of the answer is to understand and address their changing expectations. EY finds that these experts are “increasingly demanding more flexibility in a variety of forms: flexible working arrangements, a greater emphasis on wellbeing, and heightened expectations around professional development and advancement. Companies have also been under increasing pressure to align their values and ESG policies with employees’ values as workers assess not only where and how they work but also why they work.”

Another part of the answer involves tax automation, the recruiting and retention benefits of which I discuss here.

Blog Author

Michael J. Bernard, Chief Tax Officer – Transaction Tax at Vertex Inc. Vertex's Chief Tax Office (CTO) provides insight regarding the impact of tax regulations, policy, enforcement, and emerging technology trends on global tax department operations.

Michael J. Bernard

Vice President of Tax Content and Chief Tax Officer

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Michael Bernard is the Chief Tax Officer of Transaction Tax. In his role, he provides insight and thought leadership around tax department operations, U.S. indirect tax, tax risk management, and tax policy, as well as emerging tax trends. He is an executive-level tax attorney with a diverse portfolio of experience in corporate tax, administration, and finance, including a substantive knowledge of U.S. and international tax laws.

Prior to joining Vertex, Michael was in various tax leadership roles at Microsoft Corporation for 28 years, the most recent being Senior Director – Tax Counsel. Michael led teams in the following functional areas: direct and indirect tax controversy, sales and use, business license, property, tax IT, SOX, and telecommunications. He also co-led a corporate taxpayer advocacy group with the Washington Department of Revenue and was a Director on the Board of the Washington Research Council. Michael has also testified before administrative and lawmakers at both the federal and state level.

Michael earned both a J.D. and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Creighton University. He is a part-time lecturer of Law in the LLM program at the University of Washington School of Law. Michael also served on the board of directors, executive committee, and chaired committees for The Tax Executives Institute (TEI) for nearly 25 years.

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