Alvarez & Marsal joins Middle East's tax advisory landscape

14 September 2023 2 min. read
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Alvarez & Marsal, a US-headquartered management consulting firm, has expanded its portfolio in the Middle East with tax services – as the firm takes on the large accounting-origin groups with what it describes as a more independent approach.

The leader of Alvarez & Marsal’s Tax practice, Ernie Perez, said the firm is delighted to continue its global growth strategy, having recently also setup shop is several new European markets.

“Our Tax practice’s double-digit growth demonstrates the success of our multi-pronged growth strategy which includes global expansion,” said Perez. “Our multi-disciplinary expertise and freedom from audit conflicts, differentiates us in the market and allows us to better serve our clients.”

Alvarez & Marsal joins Middle East's tax advisory landscape

In the tax advisory space, Alvarez & Marsal is up against several specialist firms, but most notably, the giants in the industry. For decades, the space has been dominated by the Big Four: Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PwC. While the quartet according to analyst firms bring unparalleled breadth and depth of capabilities to the fore, working with them also comes with a possible drawback: potential conflicts of interest.

Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PwC all audit the books of large companies, and where possible, they also advise them on matters, including on taxation. In most cases the ‘Chinese walls’ between the two fields are meticulous, but when standards are not upheld, the outcome come with major calamity – as seen in multiple cases across the world.

This has been a thorn in the eye of regulators since the collapse of Enron in the early days of the current century, however, not much progress has been made in forcing the Big Four to split. EY came very close, but that attempt was driven by internal considerations.

A consultancy with no audit business, Alvarez & Marsal can operate “fully independent”, said Perez.

A 10-strong launching team

To drive its Middle East launch, Alvarez & Marsal plans to hire a 10-strong team by the end of this year, spearheaded by already recruited Vishal Sharma. Appointed a Managing Director in the UAE, Sharma joins from Deloitte, where he spent nine years in its International Tax Services group in Dubai.

“The Middle East’s tax landscape is continuing to evolve at unprecedented pace, with both the reform of existing tax regimes and introduction of new taxes. Alvarez & Marsal’s integrated platform and global network provide competitive advantages that help clients realise their objectives while managing market complexities,” Sharma noted.

Marvin Rust, Head of Alvarez & Marsal’s Tax practice in Europe, applauded the move in the Middle East, pointing at growing demand from European clients for local, on the ground support. “With growing stability in the Middle East market, we anticipate that more Europe-based corporates will explore and evaluate investments in the region.”

The Tax practice will work for sovereign wealth funds, private equity firms, state-owned entities, large global multinational corporations, and family wealth offices.