Guidance for members in Commerce and Industry
Members in Commerce and Industry have identified a number of areas where they would welcome guidance. These included the role of the Senior Accounting Officer. This will be relevant to members working in companies or Groups with UK companies which meet the thresholds in FA 20019 Sch46. This includes a company with a turnover in excess of £200 million. The guidance has been reviewed by legal Counsel. HMRC has also had sight of it and answered some specific questions relating to the SAO role. Ultimately it is anticipated that it will be included as guidance within Professional Conduct in relation to Taxation (PCRT) but in the meantime it is issued as standalone guidance for CIOT and ATT members.
Other areas identified by those working in commerce and industry are covered in a set of FAQs. These follow closely the approach in PCRT but are drafted specifically with a focus on the Commerce and Industry workplace. However the principles included in the FAQs apply to all members.
Since producing the SAO guidance there has been the first reported appeal against penalties for an alleged failure to take reasonable steps by a SAO. The SAO’s appeal was allowed.
The FTT decision elucidates on what taking reasonable steps means (which is not the same as having a reasonable excuse):
“The question of whether the appellant took “reasonable steps” is clearly an objective one, which in my view must be determined by reference to all the circumstances. As indicated in SAOG14320 there is no “one size fits all”. The matters to take into account will include the size, complexity and nature of the business, but in my view must also include matters more closely related to the role of the individual in question, such as the resources available to that individual and his or her authority to bring about any required change (albeit taking account of the fact that, under paragraph 16 of Schedule 46, the SAO will by definition have a senior role in the business).”
For further details members should refer to the full report.