The risks at SARS of being a Public Officer for your company
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.