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The Pros and Cons of Flexible Staffing

By: Nancy Barrett |

An interview with Flexible Staffing expert Nancy Barrett, Managing Director at True Partners Consulting.

This article appeared in the Nov/Dec 2018 issue of the Tax Executive. 

Question: Is Flexible Staffing the Best Option for Your Firm?

Answer: Tax directors often request my input into how to structure their departments around their most valuable and limited resource—people. My response is always nuanced, cautioning that the answer is highly dependent on a defined core mission and the intended role for tax in the organization.

What type of tax department will be the best partner to the business and will best support business decision making? Is tax viewed as a strategic partner with the business, influencing commercial decisions upfront, or will it sweep things into place after commercial decisions have been made? Will tax maintain certain core competencies internally, such as support for compliance functions, or does the vision for tax focus more on planning and tactical support? Will tax have the resources to do both functions well?

What the business needs, desires, or is willing to fund in defining tax’s role can create many variations in how a tax department is structured. The answers to these questions will, in many respects, dictate the staffing challenges your department will face as it competes for talent. A tax department’s work is defined by the interplay of collaboration, budget, and resources. The best-laid plans can be upended by any of these factors, the least predictable and most frustrating of which often is resources—attracting and retaining the caliber of talent that can transform and uplift the tax function.

The Overtaxed Tax Function

Tax departments are no strangers to resource and staffing challenges. Today’s corporate tax director faces unprecedented pressures: recent major legislative and regulatory developments, increased enforcement, heightened press scrutiny, greater stakeholder involvement, and more focus on financial statements and internal controls. Tax directors have to meet these new demands, often with little guidance and few resources.

As a result, the tax function is perpetually too understaffed and inward-looking to collaborate effectively with other functions within the organization and to stay focused on supporting business decision making. This dynamic is developing at a time when tax directors are being asked to better align tax planning with firms’ business planning. C-suite executives often express the desire to see tax far more engaged in the nonroutine, strategic aspects of the business.

Such demands, when coupled with the evolving tax reporting environment, are forcing a profound reassessment of how tax departments do business. Amid such formidable challenges lies an opportunity for both the company and the tax director to gain a competitive advantage by moving toward a flexible and responsive tax department that is closely aligned with the goals and business strategies of the company.