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HMRC internal manual

Senior Accounting Officer Guidance

In what circumstances is a penalty chargeable: overview

We expect there to be strong compliance with the Senior Accounting Officer (SAO) provisions. HMRC’s Large Business Customer Compliance Managers (CCMs) and Mid-sized Business Customer Engagement Team (CET) will consider this as part of their overall risk assessment of companies. However, if there are failures, Schedule 46 FA 2009 does provide for

  • a penalty chargeable on a qualifying company for failure to notify the name of its SAO within certain timescales, see SAOG18300, and
  • two separate penalties chargeable on an SAO for

    • failing to comply with the main duty, see SAOG18400, and
    • failing to provide a certificate within certain timescales, see SAOG18500, or providing a timely certificate that contains a careless or deliberate inaccuracy, see SAOG18600.

Unless the company or SAO have a reasonable excuse in relation to a failure , we have to charge the relevant penalty or penalties.

A penalty is chargeable on the person responsible for the failure or inaccuracy - either the company or the SAO. See SAOG18700 for guidance where there is more than one SAO for a financial year.

In a group situation, we may not be able to charge more than one penalty per SAO or group for failure across all the group companies. The rules for this situation can be complicated and you can find examples at SAOG18300 - SAOG18600. In cases of difficulty, CCMs or Caseworkers should contact their nominated business contact for advice.

A penalty will not be charged on a person if they have a reasonable excuse for the failure to comply with the legislation, see SAOG20000.

A CCM, the CET or a Caseworker must discuss any penalty for a failure by an SAO only with that SAO or their authorised agent, see SAOG18800. Under most circumstances such penalties should not be discussed with the company.

A CCM, the CET or a Caseworker must record the reasons behind any consideration of whether a penalty may or may not be chargeable, and ensure that this is stored for future reference. Include the reasons where a penalty was considered but the decision was not to charge the penalty.

See SAOG19000 for guidance on what to do when a CCM, the CET or a Caseworker thinks a penalty may be chargeable.