- It has been predicted that thousands of jobs will be created, as Corporate Tax becomes effective on 1st June 2023.
- Meet Hany Elnaggar, Associate Partner at WTS Dhruva, a leading Tax Firm in the UAE, who’s spent the last decade working in Saudi Arabia and UAE in senior tax roles.
- He gives us an overview of who is hiring and what roles will be in demand.
TFS: You started your career in Taxation in Egypt, but later moved to the GCC region. Why did you make the move after almost two decades?
Having worked with the Egyptian Tax Authority, PwC, and another famous Swiss-American MNC in taxation, I thought “I have spent almost two decades in Egypt. Now, it’s time to add another experience to my portfolio.”
I started contemplating moving to one of the countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The GCC countries were undergoing significant tax development in around 2013. And when new taxes are implemented, opportunities are going to pour in.
I said to myself, the earlier I seize the opportunity, the better.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia (KSA) were two of my targeted countries. However, UAE was my second option as it didn’t have corporate tax at that time, unlike KSA.
KSA had a broader Tax System, but it wasn’t too complex as it is today.
I got a job offer from KSA’s ACWA Power, a global developer, and operator of power and water plants in multiple regions. I joined them in February 2013, as the Group Tax & Zakat Senior Manager for the Middle East region.
There was no tax department, so I had to start from scratch.
At that time my friends were a little bit surprised that I moved to a different country, despite getting the same salary package as Egypt.
In my mind, it was mainly for the scope, the experience, and building connections in the Middle East.
TFS: From a Tax decision-maker to a Tax Advisor. Why did you make the transition from working in the industry to now joining a Tax Advisory?
Over the last decade, I worked across top companies such as Nissan Motor Corporation, and Al Tayer Group in UAE, as Head of Tax.
As time went on, I felt that it would be amazing to have a combination of industrial and advisory experience in the job market.
Anyone can interpret the tax laws and regulations for the client. But I believe that a person with industrial experience can be valuable when dealing with clients in an Advisory Firm. That’s what clients look for.
In March 2023 I moved to WTS Dhruva Consultants a leading Tax Advisory firm as an Associate Partner for Middle East & GCC regions.
Was the transition easy? After all those years in the industry, it was somewhat of a challenge to move to the advisory field. However, being open to new experiences and getting out of my comfort zone was the main motivator.
Dealing with different kinds of clients
- Working in an advisory firm you have to deal with multiple clients where each one has their own needs.
- Since I am overseeing the entire Middle East region, I have to be on top of every latest tax update in those countries. Even if you are moving to the UAE, stay updated about the latest tax news in KSA or Qatar, or other middle eastern countries.
- One of the biggest challenges is to make sure that the client’s happy with my performance. That is why I attend to them whenever they call me or send me emails. You have to be available all the time.
TFS: How do you stay updated with the latest Tax laws and changes?
I am subscribed to IBFD a leading international provider of cross-border tax expertise, to get live tax updates in the region. It’s a good resource for people that want to stay up to date with worldwide tax information.
I also reach out to my connections across different GCC countries, to learn about new updates in the tax landscape.
Social media platforms such as LinkedIn, WhatsApp groups, and official websites of the country’s government, such as the Ministry of Finance can be greatly beneficial.
Tax is a very sensitive part of a business, and I can’t afford to give my client the wrong advice. So if I can’t answer something on the spot, I just research the topic and update them later on.
TFS: According to you, what does the UAE job market look like for tax professionals? Do you see more opportunities in advisory?
Corporate Tax will become effective in the UAE, from 1st June 2023 onwards. All individuals (if qualified) that are engaged in business activities, regardless of incorporation status, will be subject to a 9% corporate Tax in the UAE, excluding free zones.
Almost every company in the UAE is hiring for various roles, and there is a huge demand for people with advisory backgrounds.
- Anyone with experience at the Big 4 (the global consultancies such as PwC, Ernst & Young) and who’s served in multiple tax jurisdictions and have impressive tax backgrounds are highly sought after.
- Big 4, Big 10 consulting firms are hiring for every level.
- The small-sized firms are looking for Tax Accountants, and not necessarily Tax Managers.
- Some of the companies already have their tax team, but as the new Tax gets implemented, they will start to hire for every level, from junior, to senior to mid-senior.
- The workload will increase and because of that companies will need professionals who can help with data extraction, data reconciliation, and so on.
- Fresh graduates or someone with one or two years of tax experience will also have a good opportunity in the industry.
- The UAE is already familiar with the idea of outsourcing.
- I have seen many outsourcing firms providing VAT return filing services to the UAE.
- In fact, outsourcing will increase with the arrival of Corporate Tax, but only after the implementation phase.
The surge of hiring related to Corporate Tax will continue in the UAE for the next three years before it becomes stable like VAT.
TFS: What should one consider when transitioning to the UAE job market, especially when they do not have experience in Taxation?
Many people are now switching departments, i.e. from tax to audit.
But if someone wants to move to the UAE, even in the same department, he will have to start from scratch.
If you have 5 years of work experience in Audit in another country, don’t think that you would start in a senior position in UAE. This country will consider you a fresher.
The reason is simple; some people in the UAE already have 5 years of work experience. They are familiar with the country’s rules and regulations, so the company should hire him than you.
But don’t get disheartened.
It’s a different country, with a different regime, so be ready to learn and wait for another 2-3 years to acquire the knowledge and experience.
You’ll be hired at the level that you deserve, with two-three times the salary that you currently receive.
Even I had to start from the same level when I first moved from Egypt to KSA. I didn’t ask them to make me the head of tax just because I had 6-7 years of experience.
In the case of a senior professional with 15 years of experience, he may or may not start at the same level in the UAE. It depends on his capability and the role he is applying for.
TFS: What certifications, or skills related to tax should one acquire, to maximize their chances of getting a job in the UAE?
If you are looking to enhance your career prospects in taxation in the UAE, pursuing certifications and acquiring specialized skills will be advantageous.
Certifications to pursue
- Many firms and companies in the UAE have two main requirements nowadays; a Chartered Accountancy qualification, and a tax certificate such as Advanced Diploma in International Taxation (ADIT).
- CPA is also in demand, but make sure it is relevant to the field you are working in.
- Some universities offer these tax certificates that are recognized worldwide. Go for a proper course and read the module beforehand.
- You may have to spend a bit more money on the certification, but you will end up with something much more valuable than that.
- Whenever I am hiring, I focus on the candidate’s personality more.
- I will ask maybe one or two technical questions but will place great emphasis on his soft skills such as communication skills, and listening skills. That is very important.
- It’s easier to teach people technical skills, but changing their personality is difficult.
- Knowing Arabic is helpful when dealing with local authorities and is required for some roles. (Check the job description)
- The candidate should not be concerned about it.
The Middle East is one of the best regions, with a very attractive job market.
The implementation of Corporate Tax Law in the UAE will not only encourage economic activity but also catalyze the expanding job market in the country.
Building a strong professional network will help immensely in getting a job in the UAE.
For those who don’t have any connections in the region, the next best option would be to apply through the company’s website or LinkedIn. But be very reasonable and respectful when reaching out to recruiters or employers on LinkedIn.
And as I keep emphasizing, surviving and proving yourself in the new country will not be easy, so learn to be persistent.