On 1 June 2016 HMRC published Revenue & Customs Brief 12(2016) which sets out further guidance in relation to the operation of the Senior Accounting Officer (SAO) regime. Most of the additions to the already published guidance represent clarification of HMRC’s existing views, but there is one significant change, namely a welcome agreement that HMRC will accept the submission of SAO certificates through ‘any recognised paper or electronic format e.g. letter, fax, email, shared workspace’, provided that this includes the ‘identifiable signature’ of the SAO.
This relaxes the requirement that HMRC must be in possession of a hard copy of the certificate by the relevant deadline and it is therefore welcome, although many may find it disappointing that other relatively inconsequential procedural offences will continue to attract what can be seen as a disproportionate penalty. Examples are the inadvertent omission of dormant companies from the notification/certificate, and submissions that are late by a few days.
New clarification has been provided concerning the circumstances in which HMRC will accept that failures are attributable to reasonable excuse, including major changes affecting the company, its systems or the personnel who are key to its systems and governance, and personal issues affecting the SAO such as bereavement or illness, but clearly this does not include simple oversight.