Unleash Tax Freedom with a SARS Public Officer

Guide to SARS Public Officers in South Africa

Essential Tax Compliance Insights for Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses

As an entrepreneur or small business owner in South Africa, you know that navigating the complexities of the tax landscape is crucial for long-term success. One of the most important decisions you’ll make is appointing a SARS Public Officer. This article explains the role, responsibilities, and legal implications surrounding their appointment, with a focus on practical insights to ensure your business stays compliant.

What is a Public Officer, and Why Do You Need One?

South African law, specifically the Tax Administration Act (TAA), defines a Public Officer as a person who serves as your company’s official representative for all tax-related matters before the South African Revenue Service (SARS). Their role goes far beyond paperwork; they safeguard your business’s financial and legal standing. Here’s why this appointment is crucial:

  • Proactive Compliance: Your Public Officer oversees the timely and accurate filing of all necessary tax returns, minimising the risk of audits, penalties, or legal complications caused by missed deadlines or errors.
  • Efficient Communication: The Public Officer serves as your single point of contact for SARS inquiries, streamlining communication and protecting your time. They handle everything from routine questions to potential audits, maintaining positive relations with tax authorities.
  • Organised Recordkeeping: Tax audits often require detailed historical records. Your Public Officer ensures that financial transactions, tax filings, and communications with SARS are meticulously documented and easily accessible.
  • Keeping Pace with Change: Tax regulations evolve. Your Public Officer is responsible for staying updated on the latest laws and amendments, adapting your company’s practices to ensure continuous compliance.

Who Can Be a SARS Public Officer: Finding the Right Fit

The law requires a Public Officer to be a natural person residing in South Africa. You have two main options:

  1. Internal Appointment: A director, member (in close corporations), or the company secretary can be your Public Officer. This keeps tax matters in-house but requires choosing someone with the necessary time, knowledge, and attentiveness to detail.

  2. External Tax Professional: Outsourcing to a qualified tax specialist or accounting firm ensures dedicated expertise. This is particularly valuable for smaller businesses lacking internal capacity for complex tax administration.

Legal Considerations and the Importance of Responsibility

Appointing a SARS Public Officer isn’t optional; the Companies Act mandates it within one month of starting operations or acquiring an office in South Africa. Failure to comply could result in SARS designating a company director or member by default.

Remember, Public Officers hold substantial accountability. Under the Tax Administration Act, they could face personal liability for tax debts or penalties if negligence or intentional misconduct led to your company’s non-compliance. This is why choosing a highly qualified and responsible individual is paramount.

Practical Guidance: Appointing the Right SARS Public Officer

  • Look for Expertise: Prioritise formal qualifications or demonstrated experience in South African tax law, whether for an appointment within or outside your company.
  • Meticulousness Matters: Tax compliance requires precision. Look for someone with excellent attention to detail and proven organisational skills.
  • Communication is Key: Choose a Public Officer who can communicate effectively and confidently, both with your team internally, and with SARS representatives.

Internal vs. External Appointment: Finding the Best Fit for Your Business

When choosing a Public Officer, one of the key decisions is whether to appoint someone within your business or outsource this role to an external specialist. Here’s a breakdown to help you make the right choice:

When to Consider an Internal Public Officer:

  • Cost Control: If your business has the in-house capacity and a qualified candidate, this option may be more cost-effective in the long term.
  • Direct Oversight: An internal appointment offers more direct control over access to sensitive tax information.
  • Knowledge of Your Business: A company director or senior manager often has a deep understanding of your business operations, which can be helpful in tax planning and communication with SARS.

When Outsourcing May Be the Better Choice:

  • Need for Specialised Expertise: If your business activities are complex, or if tax regulations frequently change in your sector, an external professional brings constantly updated know-how.
  • Limited Internal Resources: Smaller businesses may lack the time or staff to dedicate to the Public Officer’s tax compliance duties. Outsourcing frees up valuable internal resources.
  • Peace of Mind: Qualified tax specialists and accounting firms are focused on keeping up with the latest regulations and minimising your risk profile. This can provide significant peace of mind.

Hybrid Approach: Some businesses opt for a combination, such as having an internal employee handle routine tax matters, while consulting an external specialist for complex issues or during audits.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • What level of in-house tax expertise do I currently have?
  • Is anyone in my existing team willing and able to take on additional, significant responsibilities?
  • Can I afford the ongoing fees associated with an external Public Officer?
  • How complex are my business activities with regards to tax?

Regardless of your choice, remember: Meticulous recordkeeping, clear communication, and regular performance reviews are essential to ensure your Public Officer effectively protects your business’s tax interests.


  • Can I change my SARS Public Officer? Yes, but you must notify SARS in writing.
  • What happens if my Public Officer leaves the company (or the external firm)? You are legally obligated to appoint a new one promptly.
  • Are there additional benefits besides compliance? A knowledgeable SARS Public Officer can help identify tax-saving opportunities for your business.


Appointing a Public Officer is a foundational step for tax compliance in South Africa. By understanding the role, potential candidates, and legal framework, you lay the groundwork for a smooth, compliant relationship with SARS.

Disclaimer: This guide offers general information. For personalised advice, please consult a qualified tax professional.


Related Posts