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VAT: Contemplating moving in-house? When’s the optimum time to make that move?

No doubt about it, a VAT consultancy career in a Big 4 firm can be immensely rewarding experience. Excellent clients to work with, often with highly complex problems to find solutions for. You’ll have a structured career path, and enjoy a real sense of camaraderie as you progress upwards through the ranks. The professional experience you get, and the financial rewards that come with that can be superb. However, for some VAT specialists in a Big 4 VAT consultancy environment, there can be the niggling thought in the back of one’s mind about whether one should choose to take your VAT expertise into an in-house setting. Maybe it’s the increase in emphasis on business development the further down your Consultancy career you get, maybe it’s the thought of making a real difference to a company’s tax position, maybe it’s the idea of focusing more exclusively in a particular sector. Or maybe you’re just sick of timesheets?

In addition, you could be thinking that you could do with some time in-house to round off your professional and technical exposure, for you to take back to a Big 4 firm later in your career.

The most frequent question we here at BLT are asked is: ‘When’s the best point in my career to consider moving in-house?’ We hope that the following statistics will go some way to answering this question.

At BLT, we’ve been tracking the in-house UK appointments made over the last few years (BLT placements, direct hires or otherwise), and to draw meaningful conclusions we need to look at both demand and supply.


Looking at all the in-house VAT positions that were appointed in the UK between Jan 2014 – Dec 2015, and converting them into typical Big 4 grading classifications (regardless of whether they ultimately appointed from an in-house background or not):

3% arose at the Director level pitch
15% arose at the Senior Manager level pitch.
50% arose at the Manager level pitch. Typically advisory focused, plus some compliance management.
14% arose at the Assistant Manager level pitch. Typical focus is on compliance management, plus assisting one or more senior VAT specialists with advisory work.
18% arose at the Assistant level pitch. These are usually (but not always) compliance/’number crunching’ roles.

It’s very clear that the ‘need’ in-house from a volume perspective is at the Big 4 Manager level equivalent. The more senior you get, the rarer the opportunity.


The headline figure is 24% of all those starting new permanent VAT in-house roles between January 2014 and December 2015 came from a Big 4 VAT advisory position. This should not be a huge surprise; given that any in-house Indirect Tax compliance driven appointments are much more likely to go to those currently doing similar positions in another commercial organisation. Simultaneously a good number of advisory roles that arise in industry and f/s institutions go to those with existing experience of working in-house.

So of the roles that did indeed go to someone latterly working in a VAT advisory capacity in one of the Big 4 accountancy firms, from what grade did most of those appointments take place nationally?

4% from a Big 4 VAT Director grade
38% from a Big 4 VAT Senior Manager grade
40% from a Big 4 VAT Manager grade
16% from a Big 4 VAT Assistant Manager/Senior Associate grade
2% from a Big 4 VAT Assistant/Associate grade


So when’s the best time to consider going in-house?

  • Director grade – in-house roles are very rare, and when they do arise, don’t often go to Big 4 VAT specialists
  • Senior Manager grade – in-house roles are very rare, but when they do arise, you’re in with a decent shout of getting it.
  • Manager grade – in-house roles are comparatively frequent, and you’ve got a good chance of getting it.
  • Assistant Manager grade – there are some in-house roles that arise, and you may get one.
  • Assistant grade – a decent proportion of roles arise, but given they’re compliance driven, they wouldn’t usually appoint from a Big 4 firm.

In summary, if in-house is the career route you think you’d like to go down, we’d suggest that the ideal time to start looking at moving in-house would be as you are moving up from VAT Assistant Manager to Manager grade. Once you’re at Manager grade, don’t leave it too long before moving, as when you start to near Senior Manager grade, the volume of opportunities decrease considerably.

For advice on how to get the best out of your Indirect Tax career, whether that be in a professional services firm or in-house, contact BLT’s specialist Indirect Tax recruitment team on 0207 405 3404.

Guy Barrand
Emma Wade
Liz Watt


Aspire Foundations Networking Event

Last night I attended the Aspire Foundations networking event, hosted by leading law firm Freshfields in London. For those that haven’t come across Aspire, it  is an inspirational organisation that aims to inspire and empower women globally through mentoring and technology. They aim to match M.A.D – ‘Making A Difference’ women working in not for profit, charities and social enterprises with female and male mentors in the small business and corporate world.  They have set the bar high – the aim being to make a difference to I billion women by 2020! However, having seen first hand the energy and enthusiasm in the room last night, from both mentors and mentees, I believe they can absolutely smash their goal!

Having established BLT’s new Executive Coaching Service line, I believe it is important to use my Coaching and mentoring skills to ‘give back’ in some  way, and Aspire provides the perfect opportunity for me to do this.  I joined the mentoring programme earlier this year and my commitment is to mentor the person I am matched with over a six month period for an hour a month.  The aim is to mentor women  to become more powerful leaders in their life, work and world by enhancing skills such as management, influence, communication and career and life planning. The unexpected benefit or me – and other mentors I have met have echoed this – is how much we get back from our mentees. So it is a really positive learning experience for me too.

If you would like to find out more about the Aspire mentoring programme, have a look at their website – .  And if you would like to find out more about my mentoring experience, or discuss BLT’s Executive Coaching service, I’d love to hear from you. Contact Liz at


Women in Leadership

This morning Liz attended the first external Women in Leadership Breakfast event organised by Coca-Cola Enterprises. CCE have a thriving women’s network across their business and so decided to share their experiences, learning and expertise with an external audience. The event was dedicated to women in leadership across a whole range of businesses and organisations and a truly diverse audience of women – and men – enjoyed a lively and informative morning.

The purpose of the event was to shine a light on some of the key issues for women in management and leadership roles today, and to this end we heard from a range of  excellent speakers from CCE who were generous in sharing how the business has embedded their diversity programme as an integral part of their business strategy.  As delegates we were given the opportunity to participate in CCE’s leading- edge  research on key issues impacting on women in business today and it was fascinating to see the immediate results to a number of key questions around our personal views and experiences in the workplace. As these responses will feed back into CCE’s research programme, it was great to be given the chance to have a ‘voice’.

The key note speaker was Jo Malone MBE who delivered a truly inspirational speech on the importance of choices and she delivered a candid, and often emotional talk on the choices she has made personally, and the impact these have had on her career. What did I take away from this? That the possibilities for personal and professional development are endless if you have a genuine passion for what you do, the importance of being yourself and staying true to what you believe in, and the power of humour, humility and the ability to learn from your mistakes and move on.

At BLT we are committed to playing a key role in the debate around diversity and inclusion,  and the aspiration of achieving gender parity. If you would like to discuss your experiences with us, or share the innovations your business is developing around this crucial topic, we would love to hear from you. Contact Liz –

Women in Leadership

Happy Birthday Ma’am

Yes, despite some mutterings from certain republican quarters here at BLT (the Scottish contingent here at BLT seems particularly vocal on the subject….), we’re all getting out our paper hats and party poppers to celebrate Her Maj’s big day.

Going the distance is an underappreciated quality we feel – BLT is now in our 29th year of trading, and whilst admittedly we haven’t served anywhere near as long as Queen Elizabeth’s 64 years on the throne, we’re particularly proud of our longevity.

So for a bit of fun, we’ve been thinking about what else we share with our esteemed monarch:

  • Deep knowledge of our specialist subjects…..for corgis and horse-racing, substitute Indirect Tax & Management Consultancy
  • A strong appreciation of history – we know what has worked for our clients in the past enabling us to advise all the better in the future
  • A comprehensive database of contacts to compare with the Royal Stamp collection
  • An ability to adapt to constitutional change – the recruitment process is very different these days from when interviews happened down the pub and the BLT database was catalogued on index cards.
  • A perfect partnership – our Indirect Tax and Management Consultancy teams work closely together to give us great insight into change and developments in the world of business. Which team is Prince Philip I wonder.
  • Public figureheads – its not just about recruitment here at BLT; we’re regularly called on for input into thought leadership in the fields of Indirect Tax and Management Consultancy
  • Titles and honours – our MC team was recently voted ‘Best Management Consultancy Team’ for the 8th successive year by Top Consultant.
  • The Queen is known for her strong beliefs – we’re also of the opinion that there is a ‘right’ way to go about business – our ethics underpin everything we do.
  • We’ve both had the occasional ‘annus horribilis’ and got through to the other side! We know how to survive challenging times and how to advise clients and candidates during ‘job market downturns’.

So whilst I’m sure the Queen is reminiscing a little today over her jelly and icecream at the same time as contemplating the future, we’re also looking back on the lessons learned from our three decades in the business and are looking forward to the next three! We’re also taking a moment to admire someone who has been ‘in business’ for over twice as long as us…..its a right royal achievement Queen Elizabeth, so congratulations and many happy returns of the day!

Queen's Birthday

Is three the new five?

A recent study on workers over the age of 40 in Australia suggests that the optimal working week for this age group could be just three days. The study measured the cognitive function of around 3,000 men and 3,500 women and found that people working roughly 25 hours a week tended to achieve the best scores.

The report states: “Work can be a double-edged sword, in that it can stimulate brain activity, but at the same time, long working hours and certain types of tasks can cause fatigue and stress which potentially damage cognitive functions.”

Consultants look away now because the report goes on to say that the most pronounced drop in cognitive function is seen in people who work more than 60 hours a week. Yet more evidence that those late nights are no good for you…

Should these findings be given some thought by employers? Obviously a 3 day week probably isn’t viable for the vast majority of businesses, but is there a compromise to be found in the spirit of employee welfare? Or is there even an argument to be made that a 4 day working week would result in greater overall productivity? Hard to say, but with constant improvements in technology making flexible working more and more feasible, these are questions employers may want to start asking themselves.

3 day working week

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