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In a nutshell, there aren’t any, despite what SARS imply when they talk to us.

SARS love to make out that the Public Officer can be held liable for the tax sins of the company, but there’s nothing in the legislation to support this. What is important is that all companies must appoint a Public Officer and that failure to do so can lead to penalties of R25 per day, which can amount to quite a lot of money over, say, 365 days. I’ve never known SARS to impose this penalty, but there’s always a first time.

So what is the Public Officer responsible for? Well, he’s actually the face of the company at SARS. It’s his job to make sure that all returns are correct and submitted on time, along with the corresponding payments. He’s like the compliance officer on tax matters.

Then why do we not act as the Public Officer for our clients? Simply because we would then become responsible to our clients for their compliance, whereas as we stand normally, we are only here to help them comply – a very different matter from a risk point of view.

Who should be the Public Officer? In our view, it should be the CEO (or CFO if you’ve got one). It would be unfair to foist that onto an employee as, like us, it would put them in a position where the company could sue them for failing in their responsibilities.


  1. My Company Accounting Officer did not submit IT14 returns for a number of years resulting in SARS admin penalties of R63,000.00. It was her resonsibility. Only when our Company was handed over to debt collectors did she send me a letter from SARS advising handover and penalties incurred.

    Who is responsible for this payment – my Company or my Company Accounting Officer?

    1. Hi Alexis,
      Your company is responsible for the penalties. Your accounting officer is under no obligation to submit the returns unless you instructed her to do so and paid any corresponding invoices that she sent you.
      Your best bet is to appeal the penalties with SARS.

  2. Nonhlanhla Mahlangu

    I m the owner and Director of a small company currently not trading. Can i act as a public officer of my compamy then appkint one once i get big contracts.

  3. I am a tax practitioner but sars want my client to appoint me as a public officer.
    I am hesistant about this as I don’t know what are the pitfalls generally.
    should I sign or not?


    1. I never act as a client’s public officer. SARS can’t go after you for the company liabilities, but they could certainly take away your Tax Practitioner status.

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