Communications: Open Government/Freedom of information: The Freedom of Information Act
The Freedom of Information Act came into force on 1 January 2005. It gives any person the right to make a request, in writing, for the release of information held by public authorities. The individual does not need to mention the Act or say why they need the information. The Act covers all information whatever its classification, format, source or location. It does not give greater access to taxpayer’s affairs. The code does not affect the requirement that we keep information on individual taxpayers confidential.
Under the Freedom of Information Act all public authorities, including HMRC, are required to adopt and maintain a Publication Scheme. Under the Publication Scheme this office makes its internal operating instructions available to the public (IHTM02072).
Operational responsibility for Freedom of Information (FOI) rests with the FOI team in Information Governance KAI Knowledge resources. They provide the central co-ordination for FOI requests. People who make requests are encouraged to send them directly to the central team. However, a request can be sent to any HMRC office, so it is important we all know what a request is and what to do if they get one. When you receive a written request for information you must consider whether it is an FOI request .
- Does it fall under ‘business as usual’. For example, a copy of documents supplied to us by the applicant in the first place, like the IHT400. These requests should be dealt with as you would do normally The FOI Unit do not need to know about these.
- Does it fall under a different ‘disclosure regime’, for example, Data protection (IHTM02022)
- Is it a ‘Freedom of Information’ request
Each business area is responsible for dealing with FOI requests. For Inheritance Tax, the FOI Representative is the Complaints Manager in Ferrers House, Nottingham. If you have received, or think you may have received, an FOI request you must pass it to the Customer Service Team on the day of receipt either by hand or, for colleagues in Edinburgh and Belfast, by fax.
The Customer Service Team will take responsibility for advising the Central FOI team that a request has been received and contacting the ‘information owner’ so that they can deal with the request.
FOI requests must be handled promptly as we must respond to requests within 20 working days.