It is a role that many businesses overlook when setting up a business in Australia, but it is a legal requirement to appoint a public officer.
What is a public officer?
The public officer of a company is the person who the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) normally deal with in relation to the entity’s tax affairs.
They also play an important role in the company’s record keeping, submission of company tax filings and ensuring the company is compliant with the Australian Tax Office.
Does a company need a public officer?
Yes, under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 (Cth) (the Act), Section 252, every corporation must appoint one public officer.
Who can be a public officer?
The person your business appoints as the public officer must meet ALL of the following criteria:
- 18 years old or over
- ordinarily resides in Australia
- are capable of understanding the nature of their appointment as the public officer of the company.
Companies usually appoint the person with the most involvement in the tax and accounting matters to the position of public officer. Quite often, a public officer is either the company director or accountant.
The public officer does not need to be an employee of the company, you can elect the company’s external accountant, for example.
Appointing a public officer
The company’s own rules or articles of association determine who can appoint a public officer on behalf of the company. This is a decision to be made by the company.
In some cases, the decision may be made by a company director or the board of directors.
The public officer appointed must provide consent in writing and this consent held within the company’s records.
Once the public officer has been selected and consented to the role, a resolution is passed at a meeting of the directors appointing the public officer.
How and when does a public officer need to be appointed?
A public officer must be appointed within three months of the entity commencing business or deriving income in Australia.
They must be recorded as the public officer for the entity on Australian Tax Office systems by advising the Registrar of the Australian Business Register (ABR).
For changes in the individual elected as the public officer, it is required you advise the ABR within 28 days of the change.
This link shows how you can notify the ABR of your changes.
What are the responsibilities of the public officer?
A public officer is the Company’s representative to the Australian Tax Office and is responsible for the Company’s obligations under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936. They must be able to establish their identity and be available when contacted by the ATO regarding the company’s tax obligations.
The public officer is also liable for any penalties the company incurs for failure to meet its obligations under the Act.
Do you have any questions about the role of a public officer or appointing the right person? There are daily fines for not appointing or notifying the ATO of your company’s public officer. Please call our office on +61 2 8916 6259 or contact us here.
There are also other roles that a company must fill – resident director and company secretary – if you are not sure who or what roles your business needs when setting up business in Australia, we are happy to answer any queries you may have.
Want to know more about setting up business in Australia?
Does an Australian company need a resident director? Here are the FAQs to answer those tricky questions.
When you register your Australian business, federal taxes will apply. How much tax will my business in Australia pay?