HMRC Scientology tax exemption

William Thackeray made this Freedom of Information request to HM Revenue and Customs

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was refused by HM Revenue and Customs.

William Thackeray

Dear HM Revenue & Customs,

Please provide details of the VAT-exempt status of :


Church of Scientology Religious Education College Incorporated (company number FC009154)


(company number 03235420)


(company number 02081181)

Many thanks.

Yours faithfully,

William Thackeray

Sears, Phil (CT & VAT, London), HM Revenue and Customs

Dear Mr Thackeray

I refer to your e-mailed request, which HMRC received on 14 December 2009,
for the following information about the Church of Scientology:-

Details of the VAT-exempt status of the Church of Scientology Religious
Education College Incorporated (company number FC009154), Church of
Scientology (England and Wales) (company number 03235420) and Church of
Scientology Mission of Bournemouth Limited (company number 02081181)

I am answering under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000

HMRC neither confirms nor denies it holds the information because saying
so would necessarily tell you something about this person. Such
information, if held, would be held for HMRC's function to administer
Value Added Tax. I am relying on the exemption contained in section 44(2)
FOIA in reaching this decision. The appendix below, which also includes
the information I am required to provide about how to complain, has a more
detailed explanation about why the exemption applies.

HMRC will consider disclosing information, if held, if you provide written
consent in your favour from the authorised officers of the Church of
Scientology. Such a disclosure will be on a discretionary basis outside
the terms of the FOIA.

Yours sincerely

Phil Sears, CT&VAT, HMRC


When another law prevents disclosure of information, it is exempt from
disclosure because of section 44(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act
2000 (FOIA). Furthermore, if confirming or denying information is held
would itself reveal information which is exempt under section 44(1)(a),
the duty to confirm or deny information is held does not arise; section
44(2) FOIA refers.

Section 18(1) of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 (CRCA)
provides that Revenue and Customs Officials may not disclose information
which is held by the Revenue and Customs in connection with a function of
the Revenue and Customs. The information you are seeking, if held, would
be held in connection with our function.

Section 23(1) CRCA further provides that where information falling in
section 18(1) relates to a `person' who is identified or who could be
identified the exemption in section 44(1)(a) FOIA applies. `Person'
includes both living persons and legal entities such as companies, trusts
and charities (see paragraph 110 of the explanatory notes to the CRCA).

Therefore, to engage the section 44 FOIA exemption we consider `Is the
information held by us for one of our functions?' and `Does it relate to
an identifiable person?' If the answer to both the questions is `yes' the
information is exempt from the right to information under FOIA. And that
applies no matter whether the applicant is a third party, the
individual/organisation or someone acting with the
individual's/organisation's permission.

Taken together, the above removes information about our customers from the
right of access under FOIA.

Section 44 is an absolute exemption and therefore does not require a
consideration of the public interest.

If you are not happy with this reply you may request a review by writing
to HMRC FOI Team, Room 4/52, 100 Parliament Street London SWIA 2BQ or by
e-mail to [1][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.

Although customer information is excluded from the FOIA regime, if one of
the conditions set out in section 18(2) of the CRCA applies HMRC may
disclose on a discretionary basis. These conditions do not affect the
interaction between sections 18(1) and 23(1) CRCA so the disclosure is not
made under FOIA.

Section 18(2)(h) allows HMRC to disclose if we have the subject's consent

a) For legal entities such as companies we need the written consent of the
authorised officers allowing us to disclose.

b) For living individuals we need their written consent.

If you provide appropriate consent we will consider disclosure outside of
the FOIA as mentioned in the letter attached.

For both (a) and (b) we do not regard the usual form 64-8 permitting an
agent to act as providing sufficient authority to allow access to our
customer's information. We expect a separate consent to be provided and
will view it as valid for six months from the date the subject signed it.

The information in this e-mail and any attachments is confidential and may
be subject to legal professional privilege. Unless you are the intended
recipient or his/her representative you are not authorised to, and must
not, read, copy, distribute, use or retain this message or any part of it.
If you are not the intended recipient, please notify the sender

HM Revenue & Customs computer systems will be monitored and communications
carried on them recorded, to secure the effective operation of the system
and for lawful purposes.

The Commissioners for HM Revenue and Customs are not liable for any
personal views of the sender.

This e-mail may have been intercepted and its information altered.

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William Thackeray

Dear Phil,

Oh. Thanks anyway, and happy Christmas.

Yours sincerely,

William Thackeray

Alex Skene left an annotation ()

It is interesting to note that so far, no appeal to the ICO has been successful in overturning a s44 exemption relating to CRCA 2005...

William Thackeray left an annotation ()

yeah, I read some of the case history and thought it wasn't worth trying.

Thanks for the link BTW, looks like a useful website.