Enablers of so called Tax avoidance schemes

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

Dear HM Revenue and Customs,

How many enablers / promoters / marketers of the "so called" tax avoidance schemes have been shutdown or challenged?

Yours faithfully,

Simon Owen

foi.team@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk on behalf of FOI Central Team, HM Revenue and Customs

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Dear Mr Owen,

I am writing in response to your request for information, received 30th

Yours sincerely,

HMRC Freedom of Information Team

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 Customs's handling of my FOI request 'Enablers of so called Tax avoidance schemes'.

Regardless of the grandiloquence of your reply and your interpretation of section 31(1) (d), I still fail to concur or even understand either your reasons or argument against the full disclosure of these very important events. Matters of such enormous public interest involving the lives of many thousands of people should be made available.

You have not shown any cause, reason or connection how such a disclosure, in your own words, “would be likely to prejudice the assessment or collection of any tax or duty or any imposition of a similar nature.” On the contrary it would more likely to lead to a greater success, again in your own words, in both the assessment, collection of any tax or duty or any imposition of a similar nature. Thus giving a clear warning to all existing and future tax payers to be cautionary in receiving advice from experts!
Unless of course there are matters contained in my request that you may wish to disguise and have remained hidden from public disclosure, on the basis that by doing so may prove detrimental to your own organisation?

After all the prosecutions, if they actual existed, would be a matter of public record, presumably having been aired in open court. They are also referred to in Mel Stride’s answer to a question tabled by Stephen Lloyd MP; so my own request simply seeks clarification and confirmation of the statements made by Mr Mel Stride. Not unreasonable under the circumstances for MPs, especially ministers, to have evidential support from the departments they supposedly represent.

So I beg you to reconsider once more your decision and make a total disclosure.
At the same time, without rhetoric and under the same act, I request the following information.
What was the total cost to the taxpayers in bringing these offenders to court, and what was the financial gain to the taxpayer for having done so?

I would also point out that the person who wrote this letter addressed to me on the 22nd June should takes full responsibility for its contents by identifying themselves with a name. You have used the term “I “on at least two occasions and ended your letter with, “Yours sincerely”. The term Freedom of Information Team will simply not do. It is unprofessional, breaches protocol and is extremely impolite.

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,

Simon Owen

foi.team@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk on behalf of FOI Central Team, HM Revenue and Customs

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Owen,

Please find attached HMRC's review of our response to your information

Yours sincerely,

Harjit Garcha

Freedom of Information Team

Dear [email address] on behalf of FOI Central Team,

Your ref. IR 2018/01365

Attention: Mr Harjit Garcha

Dear Mr Garcha,

Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA)

Thank you for your email dated 1 August 2018 in respect of the above. This was in pursuance of my original request, 30th May 2018 and a follow up on 29th June 2018.
Namely: “How many enablers / promoters / marketers of the "so called" tax avoidance schemes have been shut down or challenged?”

Your response

We replied on 25 June 2018 stating information was being withheld under section 31(1)(d) of the FOIA as releasing it could prejudice the assessment or collection of tax.

Your internal review

In your internal review you have quoted ad verbatim from my email of 29th June 2018, yet in doing so, you have failed to either answer any of the information requested, or given any satisfactory justifications for not having doing so! This will be dealt with further under the heading Outcome.

I therefore with respect refute your reasoning, and would add that It is an important feature of democratic government that organisations such as HMRC, take responsibility in ensuring that all legislation is exercised as parliament intended and not interpreted to fit its own particular agenda. The lame refutation of my request and your advising me of my right to complain to the Information Commissioner, as required by section 17(7) of the FOIA is simply ducking the issue. It is an old trick for which HMRC are well known, to bounce their ‘customers’ from one department to another. Shameful!

Hence I need to replace the word grandiloquence used in my last email for sophistry and avoidance.


You have stated your review of both your response and reasoning for not releasing the information. You also state that you hold information within the scope of my request, but persist in declining to release this information, still using the exemption under section 31. The decision, which you refer to as balanced, appears to be much loaded in favour of HMRC, ignoring the enormous current public interest. Non-awareness of this ever growing flood of public interest suggests other motives for non-disclosure.

There is another; it is a well-known phenomenon in psychology that some organisations, especially large bureaucratic ones, are loathe to disclose information of any kind. Secrecy to them is power. I’m sure that Behavioural Insights who, I am advised, does a lot of work for HMRC will elaborate.

Public interest argument in favour of disclosure.

You have accepted that quantifying the number of promoters who have been pursued by HMRC, or those which have ceased this type of activity as a direct result of such measures, could act as a deterrent. You also accept that there is a strong public interest in HMRC being transparent and accountable for its actions.

You have also used in your justification for non-disclosure that your Department is subject to review by external bodies such as the National Audit Office, the Adjudicators Office and, at an individual ‘customer’ level, the Tax Tribunals and courts. These reviews are of little consequence to the general public, who like me, are totally unaware of their existence, let alone the importance you have ascribed to their role. Are you also claiming that these bodies, especially the former two, are independently financed, administrated and non-prejudicial?

If HMRC maintains the same proclivity of secrecy towards these bodies as has been demonstrated in my own simple enquiry, these bodies would not have had the necessary information to draw up fully the reports and decisions in providing an accurate public record in serving the public interest of accountability.

It may also be desirable for an organisation such as yours, on occasions, to handle its own PR direct, where in the case of HMRC is frankly appalling!

I would suggest that your stated acceptances in your first paragraph of this section should be paramount in your considerations? It should be remembered, although often omitted by insulated organisations, that all departments of government, including government itself, are ultimately accountable to the electorate! The electorate is that body of people that comprises of the public. A fact often forgotten.

Public interest argument in favour of maintaining the exemption

In this paragraph you have totally obscured your submissions with wild unsubstantiated speculation. Your further defence as summarised in this section could be construed as both sophistry and obfuscation

In my own summary of your submission I chose to use a favourite term much employed by HMRC, ‘It does not work’! So I therefore request, as you have failed to make your case under section (31) (d), that you release the information forthwith.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Yours sincerely,

Simon Owen