Emails To/From Senior HMRC Officers containing key words

Waiting for an internal review by HM Revenue and Customs of their handling of this request.

Dear HM Revenue and Customs,

This is a request for all emails that contain certain key phrases and is restricted to two senior officers. This should provide all emails that these officers have sent, received or been copied in from others.

Key phrases are
"DR Scheme"
"Disguised remuneration"
"Loan Charge"

The officers are
Mary Aiston
Ruth Stanier

Yours faithfully,

Rosemary Smith

no-reply@hmrc.ecase.gsi.gov.uk on behalf of FOI Team, HM Revenue and Customs

Our ref: FOI2020/02502

Dear Ms Smith,

Freedom of Information Act 2000 Acknowledgement

Thank you for your communication of 3rd November which has been passed to
HMRC's Freedom of Information Team.

We have allocated the above reference which you should quote if you need
to contact us.

The Team will arrange for a reply to be sent to you which will either
comply with HMRC's obligations under Freedom of Information Act or, if we
think it's an enquiry that we don't need to address under the terms of the
Act, let you know why. If it is the latter we will, if possible, pass it
on to a more appropriate part of the Department for answer.

As you will appreciate, the coronavirus pandemic has provided
unprecedented challenges for Government Departments including HMRC. Over
the coming weeks our priorities are to provide critical existing and new
Public Services for Government to support customers during this difficult
time. As a result, resources may be diverted away from usual compliance or
information rights work. HMRC aims to respond to all FOIA Requests within
20 working days. If for whatever reason this timescale cannot be complied
with HMRC will, where possible, write to you explaining the reason for the
delay and providing an estimated time for response.

Yours sincerely

HMRC Freedom of Information Act Team

no-reply@hmrc.ecase.gsi.gov.uk on behalf of FOI Team, HM Revenue and Customs

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Smith,

We are writing in response to your request for information, received 3
November.

Yours sincerely,

HMRC Freedom of Information Team

Dear [email address] on behalf of FOI Team,

Thank you for your response. I had not expected that there would be so many emails with those phrases.

In order to be more specific as defined by the ICO I have limited the request significantly

Now limited to phrase
"disguised remuneration"

Officer
Mary Aiston

Yours sincerely,

Rosemary Smith

no-reply@hmrc.ecase.gsi.gov.uk on behalf of FOI Team, HM Revenue and Customs

Our ref: FOI2020/02705

Dear Ms Smith,

Freedom of Information Act 2000 Acknowledgement

Thank you for your communication of 14th November which has been passed to
HMRC's Freedom of Information Team.

We have allocated the above reference which you should quote if you need
to contact us.

The Team will arrange for a reply to be sent to you which will either
comply with HMRC's obligations under Freedom of Information Act or, if we
think it's an enquiry that we don't need to address under the terms of the
Act, let you know why. If it is the latter we will, if possible, pass it
on to a more appropriate part of the Department for answer.

As you will appreciate, the coronavirus pandemic has provided
unprecedented challenges for Government Departments including HMRC. Over
the coming weeks our priorities are to provide critical existing and new
Public Services for Government to support customers during this difficult
time. As a result, resources may be diverted away from usual compliance or
information rights work. HMRC aims to respond to all FOIA Requests within
20 working days. If for whatever reason this timescale cannot be complied
with HMRC will, where possible, write to you explaining the reason for the
delay and providing an estimated time for response.

Yours sincerely

HMRC Freedom of Information Act Team

no-reply@hmrc.ecase.gsi.gov.uk on behalf of FOI Team, HM Revenue and Customs

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Smith,

We are writing in response to your request for information, received 14
November.

Yours sincerely,

HMRC Freedom of Information Team

Dear [email address] on behalf of FOI Team,

Thank you for your response.

In order to reduce the number of emails being included in the search, then please can you select only those emails in 2018.

This would limit the search to
Officer: Mary Aiston
Term : "disguised remuneration"
Period: 1/1/2018 to 31/12/2018

Yours sincerely,

Rosemary Smith

no-reply@hmrc.ecase.gsi.gov.uk on behalf of FOI Team, HM Revenue and Customs

Our ref: FOI2020/02989

Dear Ms Smith,

Freedom of Information Act 2000 Acknowledgement

Thank you for your communication of 23rd November which has been passed to
HMRC's Freedom of Information Team.

We have allocated the above reference which you should quote if you need
to contact us.

The Team will arrange for a reply to be sent to you which will either
comply with HMRC's obligations under Freedom of Information Act or, if we
think it's an enquiry that we don't need to address under the terms of the
Act, let you know why. If it is the latter we will, if possible, pass it
on to a more appropriate part of the Department for answer.

As you will appreciate, the coronavirus pandemic has provided
unprecedented challenges for Government Departments including HMRC. Over
the coming weeks our priorities are to provide critical existing and new
Public Services for Government to support customers during this difficult
time. As a result, resources may be diverted away from usual compliance or
information rights work. HMRC aims to respond to all FOIA Requests within
20 working days. If for whatever reason this timescale cannot be complied
with HMRC will, where possible, write to you explaining the reason for the
delay and providing an estimated time for response.

Yours sincerely

HMRC Freedom of Information Act Team

no-reply@hmrc.ecase.gsi.gov.uk on behalf of FOI Team, HM Revenue and Customs

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Smith,

We are writing in response to your request for information, received 23
November.

Yours sincerely,

HMRC Freedom of Information Team

Dear [email address] on behalf of FOI Team,

Thank you for your response to my request for information.

3 Nov 2020 - The initial request was denied on the 11 Nov 2020 because the parameters of the request yielded too many emails, just one of the officers had more than 10,000 emails with the keywords being searched for.

14 Nov 2020 - Modified the request to be more targeted on a specific director (Mary Aiston) and only one keyword (“disguised remuneration”) and that resulted in 2,300 emails and was rejected on the 20 Nov 2020.

23 Nov 2020 - Further modified the request to target a particular year , but the request has now been rejected again, 4 Dec 2020. However, in this case without specifying the number of emails that would have to be collated.

A similar Freedom of Information request for emails to and from Jim Harra was not rejected and resulted in several emails that have helped understand the operation of HMRC in regard to disguised remuneration.

As requested in your responses, I reconsidered and reduced the scope of my request. Please explain why this request is being rejected when there must now be a limited number of emails to collate and a very similar request earlier this year was satisfied?

Yours sincerely,

Rosemary Smith

no-reply@hmrc.ecase.gsi.gov.uk on behalf of FOI Team, HM Revenue and Customs

Our ref: IR2020/03264

Dear Ms Smith,

Freedom of Information Act 2000 Acknowledgement

Thank you for your communication of 6th December which has been passed to
HMRC's Freedom of Information Team.

We have allocated the above reference which you should quote if you need
to contact us.

The Team will arrange for a reply to be sent to you which will either
comply with HMRC's obligations under Freedom of Information Act or, if we
think it's an enquiry that we don't need to address under the terms of the
Act, let you know why. If it is the latter we will, if possible, pass it
on to a more appropriate part of the Department for answer.

As you will appreciate, the coronavirus pandemic has provided
unprecedented challenges for Government Departments including HMRC. Over
the coming weeks our priorities are to provide critical existing and new
Public Services for Government to support customers during this difficult
time. As a result, resources may be diverted away from usual compliance or
information rights work. HMRC aims to respond to all FOIA Requests within
20 working days. If for whatever reason this timescale cannot be complied
with HMRC will, where possible, write to you explaining the reason for the
delay and providing an estimated time for response.

Yours sincerely

HMRC Freedom of Information Act Team

no-reply@hmrc.ecase.gsi.gov.uk on behalf of FOI Team, HM Revenue and Customs

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Smith,

We are writing in response to your request for information, received 6
December.

Yours sincerely,

HMRC Freedom of Information Team

Dear [email address] on behalf of FOI Team,

Thank your for your email of 16/12/2020

HMRC have declined the request on the grounds that Mary Aiston was not in office until November 2018 and that the records for the period in 2018 are not retained.

In this response you said:-

"This decision was based upon the official you reference not taking up this position until
November 2018. I regret that this was not better explained to you at the time."

This is incorrect
I have checked records and Mary Aitson has been a director of HMRC for several years prior to to 2018 and indeed received an OBE for her work at HMRC in 2017. She was a director of wealthy and mid-sized business compliance unit, and became director of counter avoidance in 2018.

Further, you said:-
"Since the time of your initial request it has been determined that archived emails for this
period are not held."

I requested the emails for Mary Aiston with the term 'disguised remuneration' for the year of 2018. It does not seem credible that all emails for Mary Aiston for this period in which she was director of HMRC can have gone missing.

1) Please explain what the term "not held" means.
As I understand it all government emails are retained in archives.

2) Please supply any emails to/from Mary Aiston that include the term 'disguised remuneration' for the calendar year of 2018

Yours sincerely,

Rosemary Smith

FOI Team, HM Revenue and Customs

Our ref: FOI2020/03895

Dear Ms Smith,

Freedom of Information Act 2000 Acknowledgement

Thank you for your communication of 21st December which has been passed to
HMRC's Freedom of Information Team.

We have allocated the above reference which you should quote if you need
to contact us.

The Team will arrange for a reply to be sent to you which will either
comply with HMRC's obligations under Freedom of Information Act or, if we
think it's an enquiry that we don't need to address under the terms of the
Act, let you know why. If it is the latter we will, if possible, pass it
on to a more appropriate part of the Depar tment for answer.

As you will appreciate, the coronavirus pandemic has provided
unprecedented challenges for Government Departments including HMRC. Over
the coming weeks our priorities are to provide critical existing and new
Public Services for Government to support customers during this difficult
time. As a result, resources may be diverted away from usual compliance or
information rights work. HMRC aims to respond to all FOIA Requests within
20 working days. If for whatever reason this timescale cannot be complied
with HMRC will, where possible, write to you explaining the reason for the
delay and providing an estimated time for response.

Yours sincerely

HMRC Freedom of Information Act Team

Dear FOI Team,

Thank you for the reply to my request. I note that it is dated the 7th January 2021 but only arrived on the 22nd January 2021
This means the response is overdue and clearly is not a response.

Yours sincerely,

Rosemary Smith

FOI Team, HM Revenue and Customs

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Smith,

We are writing in response to your request for information, received 21
December.

Yours sincerely,

HMRC Freedom of Information Team

Dear FOI Team,

Thank you for the response to my request, which remains almost unanswered.
The request was for
Please supply any emails to/from Mary Aiston that include the term 'disguised remuneration' for the
calendar year of 2018

Please supply the name of the person who took the decision that it was not in the public interest to set aside the exemption to provide this information.
I have found that throughout this request that HMRC have been dishonest in their responses.
The reasons provided read like a list of schoolboy excuses and would be, were the subject not serious. They make for uncomfortable reading for any citizen of the UK that expects truth and honesty from the civil service

Yours sincerely,

Rosemary Smith

FOI Team, HM Revenue and Customs

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Smith,

We are writing in response to your request for information, received 22
January.

Yours sincerely,

HMRC Freedom of Information Team

Dear FOI Team,

Thank you for your reply and indeed I would not want less senior HMRC staff exposed publicly.

Let us return to the original question.

Please provide emails to/from
Officer: Mary Aiston
Term : "disguised remuneration" or DR
Period: 1/12/2018 to 31/12/2018

This has now limited the scope to one month.
This is the month in which Mary Aiston was in post (confirmed).

I believe that the information should not be withheld as it is in the public interest to know this. This should not be withheld on the authority of a junior civil servant.

Yours sincerely,

Rosemary Smith

HM Revenue and Customs

Dear Ms Smith,

All emails containing the requested terms for the entirety of 2018 were provided as an annex to our response FOI2020/03895, no further information is held. It is therefore not clear what information you are now requesting.

Kind Regards

HMRC Freedom of Information Team

OFFICIAL

show quoted sections

Dear HM Revenue and Customs,

The emails provided were not a complete set and they are redacted in such a way as to provide extremely limited information.

I am particularly concerned with one of the emails dated 18/6/2018 where a section headed Press/media has been redacted.

Having seen previous examples in other FOI responses from HMRC where it can be seen that senior management in HMRC are balancing their obligation to the law and the truth and what they reveal to the public and media I do not think that redaction and withholding of this text is appropriate. The purpose of the FOIA is to ensure that public bodies remain accountable. I ask that this section is unredacted.

Further in your response on 4th February you stated that the information was withheld by the authority of a junior member of staff of the HMRC Information Rights Unit. I would have assumed that decisions determining whether something was in the public interest was taken at a much higher level.

I request again that the information be provided on the grounds that junior HMRC staff should not be deciding what is in the public interest.

Yours faithfully,

Rosemary Smith

Dear HM Revenue and Customs,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of HM Revenue and Custom's handling of my FOI request 'Emails To/From Senior HMRC Officers containing key words'.

At each stage HMRC have refused to supply the requested information.
When a small subset of it was supplied it was redacted inappropriately particularly where a section mentioning the media was headed.
It is not reasonable to redact the documents to this extent and am very concerned about the withholding of information from the media.

This and other FOI requests are not being made to undermine HMRC's efforts to collect tax. They are being raised to understand why HMRC is taking such an aggressive position against the victims of the Loan Charge and nothing at all being done to bring the promoters to book. You will be aware that there are even more users of these schemes within the last year and HMRC have done nothing to discourage the promoters other to to put out silly tweets.

I also note that someone in HMRC has taken a view that it is not in the public interest.
To quote
"Taking a balanced view, I conclude that it is not in the public interest to set aside this exemption"
Who in HMRC made that statement as the letter has not been signed ?

I also note that HMRC are yet again conflating Evasion and Avoidance and implying that avoiding tax is dishonest. The use of this language does not help.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/e...

Yours faithfully,

Rosemary Smith