2020 January Newsletter – Hiring Trends in Tax

I hope 2019 was magical for you, or at least that it was better than a swift kick in the shin. While we’ve already rang in the new year and folks are likely busy with tax season coming up or with year-end, I thought I might look back at 2019 for a little bit of closure. The Colorado tax community continues to grow and as result, Oxford saw a record number of placements. This is not a brag, we are a small and humble shop (our whole company can comfortably fit in an Accura RDX, we’ve done it many times), but it is indicative of the market in general. Another year of growth for salaries, number of CPA’s, openings, etc. This has been the story for the last 4 years and I hope it continues. I wanted to pass along four of the biggest trends I have noticed this year in hopes that it may be helpful for the seven people that read these newsletters…

1.) Sign On Bonuses

It is not a new concept to give a candidate a lil’ sumpin’ to sweeten the deal, but 2019 saw an increase in signing bonuses for relocating candidates as well as local ones. This is especially prominent in public accounting, which points to how competitive the market is. If a candidate has three firms that he/she considers equal, a firm that offers an extra $5,000 up front may be speaking their love language. I would caution that while this is a nice gesture, a higher salary usually trumps this one-time sum.


2.) Counteroffers

Oh boy. This one hits home for us. While it was a record year for placements, it was also a record year for counter offers. Over 50% of our Colorado placements were met with a counter from their current firm or company. In some cases, these were $10K, $20K or even $30K more than the offer that candidate received. This again, is a direct result of a candidate driven market. Employers are doing more and more to try and retain their employees because they know how hard it will be to replace that person right now. As you’ve probably heard, this usually is a band-aid on a bullet hole, but I’ll save that rant for another time.

3.) Public Accounting Hiring

This is actually kind of neat. I’ve seen more people move back into public from industry this year than any year previous. My hypothesis on why this occurred is two-fold. First, candidate scarcity (I know, I know, I’m beating a dead horse here) and secondly, I think tax reform may have motivated some tax pros to get back into public so they are on the front lines learning all the ins and outs, making them more rounded tax professionals and potentially a more marketable candidate in a year or two. If I were a tax person that had already moved on from public, it’d be a hard “no” for me, but to each their own.

4.) Premature Promotions and Raises

“Premature” in this sense doesn’t mean “undeserved” or “not merited” necessarily; it just means these things are happening earlier in a young person’s career than it has historically. This is especially prominent at the Staff and Senior Staff level in public accounting. Tax Staff often get put through the ringer, so I am all for paying them more. It just seems I talk to more and more Tax Seniors that only have two years of experience or new Tax Managers who just recently hit the four-year mark. Fitting with our theme, I believe this is an effort to retain current employees because the market is so tight. The problem is that titles don’t always align – a Manager in public may not translate into a Manager in industry.


“So, Jay, who cares? Why are you telling me this? Also, stop calling me and leaving voicemails.”

Good point and can’t stop, won’t stop. I think this information is valuable to both sides of the hiring process. While all these trends seem to stem from low unemployment and a tighter market, it behooves (love that word, so retro) employers and employees to be armed with as much up-to-date insight and information pertaining to their industry. Whether or not you are currently looking for a new gig or trying to find a new hire, chances are you or someone you know will be soon. With that in mind here’s why you should care:

Job Seekers

Realize that this is a candidate driven market right now and it may not always be. You have a lot of leverage, so, within reason, you may have some bargaining power regarding compensation, PTO, Title, Flexibility, and so on.


This is what your competition is doing! You need to be aware of it! Good, bad or indifferent, knowing what your “enemy” is doing is crucial when you’re competing for talent. Obviously, not all employers are doing all these things, and while I don’t work with every accounting firm or tax dept in Colorado, I have worked with a lot of them over the years. I also spend my days on the phone with tax people from Partners and VP’s to first year staff and everything in-between. It is through these conversations that I have been able to substantiate what I see happening. So, I can confidently say that these trends are something to consider when going through the hiring process with prospective candidates.

As always, any feedback or questions are welcome. I recruit exclusively in the tax space and only in Colorado, so as you can imagine, things can geta little lonely. Feel free to pick my brain on anything you may be curious about.


Jay McCauley

Exective Recruiter, Oxford Tax Recruiting




Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)