Piyush Baid is a Chartered Accountant from India and a seasoned Tax Professional with over six years of UAE experience.
In 2017, the UAE’s discussions about VAT implementation attracted tax professionals to the region and Piyush was one of the many.
Now, in 2023, the introduction of Corporate Tax (CT) in the UAE created the same level of interest or even more.
In a conversation with The Finance Story, Piyush shares his:
- UAE tax career journey
- Insights into the current Tax professional market
- Keys to success in this dynamic environment
From Big 4 in India to Dubai
In 2014, I qualified as a Chartered Accountant.
Around the same time, India was also in the process of introducing GST a new Indirect Tax regime. The opportunities looked great and I was certain that building a career focussed in the Indirect Tax domain would be ideal.
With that in mind, I joined EY (Ernst and Young), Bangalore, as an Indirect Tax Consultant.
I stayed informed about tax changes worldwide.
In November 2016, GCC countries (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, and the UAE) collectively signed an agreement to introduce a uniform indirect tax system referred to as VAT.
As a tax professional, I saw the huge potential in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
While India was busy with the introduction of GST on 1st July 2017, the UAE was gearing up for the implementation of VAT on 1st January 2018.
The UAE became a focal point for tax professionals looking to work in the field of indirect taxes… And I was one of them.
I decided to explore the GCC region and joined WTS Dhruva, a leading Tier 1 Tax firm in the UAE, as a GCC VAT Advisor. I gained valuable experience.
In April 2020, I switched to TMSL Management Consultancy, a firm that combines the efficiency of technology with Tax services. In the last three years grown to be Associate Director… And so far it has been an excellent journey.
Key factors considered when choosing Dubai?
The first factor that I considered was the potential for ‘market growth as a tax professional’. Saudi Arabia is opening up its economy, and the UAE is continually diversifying its economic landscape. Terrific market opportunities.
Next was the opportunity for ‘career advancement’.
UAE and Saudi Arabia initiated VAT on January 1, 2018, followed by Bahrain in phases starting from January 1, 2019. Subsequently, Oman also adopted VAT in April 2021, by the same agreement. It’s foreseeable that in the upcoming months or years, Kuwait and Qatar will also introduce VAT within their jurisdictions to uphold the common GCC agreement.
As a Tax Professional, I saw immense potential as Corporate Tax, Economic Substance Regulation, and Anti Money Laundering regulations were also in the pipeline.
Taxes going to get complex in the GCC and this provides great career growth opportunities.
And of course ‘stability of the economy’.
Discover my first job in Dubai. Advice to job seekers?
Well in my case, I reached out to my seniors who were working in the Big 4 at that time. They had some connections in Dubai and referred me. Based on that, I received interview calls and was selected.
LinkedIn is an amazing platform as well.
So this is what you can do:
Reach out to personal connects
You should leverage your existing connections. Reach out to your friends or connections who are already in the UAE. Through them, you can connect with multiple companies in the UAE.
Share your CV with them.
If one person refers your CV to four or five companies, it can significantly increase your chances of finding the right opportunity.
Another pathway to consider is internal transfer.
If you work in a multinational firm, such as the Big 4 you can attempt to apply for an internal transfer. This pathway tends to be more flexible and convenient.
Apply to the company directly
Now what if you don’t have any personal contacts in the UAE?
In that case, if you’re aware of any Indian companies with a presence in the UAE and have job openings, reach out to them directly.
All of these are viable options, but I wouldn’t recommend you resign from your job in India or your home country and then look for a potential job offer in the UAE. This can be risky. I would say it is better to have a job in hand and then quit.
Hiring trends when VAT was introduced vis-a-vis the introduction of Corporate tax
First of all, when it came to VAT, organizations believed that VAT may not ultimately be their cost, but rather the cost of the consumer.
Corporate Tax on the other hand, directly impacts a company’s profit and loss (P&L). So they seek expertise from consultants or hire in-house tax experts to ensure they handle corporate tax correctly and meet their liabilities on time. This is why the current job opportunity arising from Corporate Tax is significant at both industry and firm levels.
To answer your question, the introduction of CT will and has created a lot more demand for professionals.
Most of 2022 and Q1 2023 saw a lot of hiring; 2022 mainly was senior Corporate Tax professionals in Advisory roles.
From October 2023 to March 2024, we anticipate and observe a continuous recruitment of freshers and mid-level tax managers in advisory roles.
The reason is that, even though corporate tax went live on June 1st 2023 most companies will likely implement it from January 1, as they follow the calendar year, some European and Indian-based companies may follow the April-to-March financial year.
The demand for Transfer Pricing professionals will also increase.
While not every company may fully ramp up their hiring for Corporate Tax this year, any substantial company prioritizing tax compliance will likely begin by adding at least one or two tax experts to their team.
Current hiring sentiment for VAT professionals
If I talk about VAT hiring in recent times it is slower as the market has matured.
However, companies have come to realize that VAT work is not that simple to handle and may go beyond the scope of the accounts and finance team.
When companies require expertise, they will either turn to Tax Consultants or opt for in-house hires. This is why the opportunity for VAT professionals is expected to persist.
Today for Corporate Tax even those with no UAE experience are hired but when it comes to VAT candidates with UAE VAT experience are preferred.
What is your perspective on salary considerations in the UAE?
I have no definite answer to this and there is no true benchmark.
In India, especially in the case of prominent firms like the Big 4, we have a relatively clear understanding of salary bands. For example, we know what a typical salary might be at the senior manager or manager level.
However, in the UAE, the salary landscape is more diverse. It can vary not only among different Big 4 firms but also between Big 4 and tier two firms, and further between tier 2 firms and smaller SMEs.
Providing a specific salary range is tough as multiple factors come into play.
In the UAE, a freshly qualified chartered accountant could be hired for, say, AED 6,000 – 8000 per month, and still manage the cost of living comfortably. On the other hand, there are chartered accountants or tax professionals earning five-digit salaries and still think it’s not sufficient.
Your main goal should be to secure an entry…The right compensation will follow.
Advice to tax professionals seeking to relocate?
The job market is better than ever. Now with Corporate Tax the UAE’s economy is projected to grow even more.
While Saudi Arabia has already adopted e-invoicing, UAE also has plans to embrace it soon.
So, take my word when I say this is the perfect time for anyone to move to the Gulf. Do evaluate and see if your skill meets the market needs.
It is competitive so you have to be good in tax with a genuine desire to upskill, grow and relearn.
Just Indian tax experience is not enough as you have to familiarize yourself with the GCC tax landscape. Get a hang of the local laws before applying for a job, as employers in the UAE prefer it.
It’s better to be well-prepared rather than going unfit for the market.