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HMRC internal manual

Senior Accounting Officer Guidance

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HM Revenue & Customs
Updated
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Senior Accounting Officer Main Duty: what happens if the SAO changes

A person may cease to be the Senior Accounting Officer (SAO) because

  • they leave their employment with the company or group, or
  • they change roles in the company or group, or
  • there is an acquisition or disposal of the company, or
  • the company determines that the facts show that another employee better fits the definition of SAO.

Although the person holding the role of SAO may change during a financial year, in considering the main duty it is necessary to look at the period within the financial year covered by each SAO. Each SAO has a responsibility to meet the main duty for the period of the financial year in which they are the SAO.

An SAO may be liable to a penalty for failing to meet the main duty, see SAOG18400. However, where there is more than one SAO in a financial year there can only be one main duty penalty, see SAOG18700. The examples below show the different situations which might arise.

Example 1 - SAO1 is replaced by SAO2 during the financial year and SAO1 fails the main duty

If after enquiry the Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) or Mid-sized Business Caseworker finds that SAO1 is liable to a penalty for failing to meet the main duty, this is chargeable on SAO1 despite the fact that they may have left the company. SAO2 is not liable to a main duty penalty if they have complied with the main duty notwithstanding their predecessor’s failings.

Example 2 - SAO1 is replaced by SAO2 during the financial year and SAO2 fails the main duty

If after enquiry the CRM or Caseworker finds that SAO2 has not met the main duty, only SAO2 will be liable to a penalty for failing the main duty notwithstanding that SAO1 may also have failed the main duty.

Example 3 - If 3 or more people have been an SAO during the financial year

If there were three SAOs in the financial year and after enquiry the CRM or Caseworker finds that the first and third SAOs failed in the main duty, a penalty is chargeable on the third SAO only, notwithstanding that the first SAO also failed in the main duty. No penalty can even be considered in relation to the second SAO as he succeeded in the main duty. The same principles apply if there were more than 3 SAOs in the financial year.

Note for all examples

  • We can only charge one penalty for failing to meet the main duty in relation to any financial year of any company and that is on the latest SAO who failed.
  • No person who becomes the SAO for a company after the financial year has ended can be liable to a main duty failure penalty for that financial year. (However, a person who becomes SAO for a company after the financial year has ended can be liable to a penalty of failing to provide a timely certificate, see SAOG18500, or a penalty for the timely provision of a certificate containing a careless or deliberate inaccuracy, see SAOG18600.)

FA09/SCH46/PARA6 (4)