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HMRC internal manual

Senior Accounting Officer Guidance

About Senior Accounting Officer provisions: overview

Schedule 46 of the Finance Act 2009 contains the Senior Accounting Officer (SAO) provisions.

These provisions are aimed at improving compliance across a number of tax regimes. They apply to the financial year of a company rather than any specific tax returns period.

The provisions only apply to a qualifying company.

A company must meet conditions to be a qualifying company. It must be incorporated in the UK in a financial year, and it must exceed a minimum turnover or balance sheet total for the preceding year. If it is a group company there are rules for aggregating turnover or balance sheet totals.

A qualifying company must identify the person who is its SAO. The definition of a SAO is included in the provisions. The company must identify the person who fits that definition within the facts of its own circumstances. It must notify the name of that person to HMRC within certain timescales.

The SAO must carry out a main duty which is to ensure the company establishes and maintains appropriate tax accounting arrangements to allow tax liabilities to be calculated accurately in all material respects.

The SAO must also give HMRC a certificate for a financial year within certain timescales. In the certificate they must state whether the company had appropriate tax accounting arrangements. If the company did not have appropriate tax accounting arrangements they must also explain what the shortcomings were.

A penalty will be chargeable

  • on a qualifying company if it fails to notify the name of its SAO, or
  • on the SAO if they fail to meet their main duty (though an SAO may escape a penalty if they have made reasonable efforts to rectify shortcomings), or
  • on the SAO if they fail to give HMRC a certificate within the required timescale, or they provide a timely certificate that contains a careless or deliberate inaccuracy.

A person may appeal against a penalty. If appropriate that appeal may be heard by the tribunal.