Loyal readers will recall that in January this year I submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to HMRC, asking for details of the price that they pay for lever arch files:
"Following on from last week's article about the £8 paid per unit by HMRC for lever arch files, in the absence of any response from HMRC/Number 10 or the Treasury to my tweet requesting details about the costs, I have submitted an FOI to HMRC requesting the unit price of said files.Yesterday I received a response from HMRC.
It will be interesting to see what form of response I receive."
The good news is that they know the price that they pay for lever arch files.
The bad news is that they won't tell me, lest it prejudice the commercial interests of HMRC.
Here is HMRC's reply (doubtless filed in one of those £8 lever arch files!):
"Information Policy & DisclosureWell then!
100 Parliament Street
Mr K Frost
[FOI #145496 email] Phone
020 7147 0034 Fax
020 7147 0666 www.hmrc.gov.uk
6 February 2013 Our ref
Your ref Dear Mr Frost
I refer to your request which we received on 14 January 2013, for the following information:
"… the latest expenditure figures that detail the unit cost to the taxpayer of purchasing
lever arch files for use by HMRC."
I can confirm HMRC holds this information but it is being withheld under Section 43(2), of The Freedom of Information Act 2000. This exemption allows a public authority to withhold information if disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the public authority holding it).
We consider disclosure of such commercially sensitive information could weaken the
relationship between ourselves and the contracted supplier. In applying this exemption, we have had to balance the public interest in withholding the information against the public interest in disclosure.
I accept there is a strong public interest in HMRC being as transparent as possible about its contracts with commercial entities, and the public have a right to know that the public purse is being expended wisely and also that departments are getting value for money. Disclosing the requested information would demonstrate HMRC’s willingness to be open about its contractual arrangements.
However, disclosure of commercially sensitive information could undermine the commercial interests of both parties and potentially the efficacy of the agreement we have with our contracted supplier. Furthermore, it could have an inhibiting effect on other third parties currently, or potentially, doing business with Government departments and therefore on the Government’s ability to secure value for money, which would not be in the public interest.
Release of information which could damage companies commercially would discourage them from dealing with the public sector and would undermine the necessary mutual trust and respect between private and public sector partners.
Information is available in large print, audio and Braille formats.
Text Relay service prefix number – 18001
So on balance I conclude it is not in the public interest to set aside the exemption.
If you are not happy with this reply you may request a review by writing to HMRC FOI Team, Room 1C/23, 100 Parliament Street London SWIA 2BQ or email [email address].
You must request a review within 2 months of the date of this letter. It would assist our review if you set out which aspects of the reply concern you and why you are dissatisfied.
If you are not content with the outcome of an internal review, you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner will not usually consider a case unless you have exhausted the internal review procedure provided by HMRC. He can be contacted at The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.
Yours sincerely .."
Tax does have to be taxing.
Professional Cover Against the Threat of Costly TAX and VAT Investigations
Insurance to protect you against the cost of enquiry or dispute with HMRC is available from several sources including Solar Tax Investigation Insurance.
Ken Frost has negotiated a 10% discount on any polices that may suit your needs.
However, neither Ken Frost nor HMRCISSHITE either endorses or recommends their services.
What is Solar Tax Investigation Insurance?
Solar Tax Investigation Insurance is a tax-fee protection service that will pay up to £75,000 towards your accountant's fees in the event of an HM Revenue & Customs full enquiry or dispute.
To find out more, please use this link Solar Tax Investigation Insurance
Tax Investigation for Dummies, by Nick Morgan, provides a good and easy to read guide for anyone caught up in an HMRC tax investigation. A must read for any Self Assessment taxpayer.
Click the link to read about: Tax Investigation for Dummies
HMRC Is Shite (www.hmrcisshite.com), also available via the domain www.hmrconline.com, is brought to you by www.kenfrost.com "The Living Brand"