The rules for dealing with claims from nationals of European Economic Area

The request was partially successful.

Dear HM Revenue and Customs,
What are the rules for dealing with claims from nationals of European Economic Area countries:
1. for the Child Benefit Office
2. for the Tax Credit Office

Rules exist and they were mentioned on Tax Credits Consultation Group (TCCG) meeting 04 December 2008:

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/taxcredits/minute...

Yours faithfully,

Christopher Kowalczuk

HM Revenue and Customs

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Kowalczuk

Please find attached acknowledgement for FOI 2718/11

<<FOI 2718 C Kowalczuk - Acknowledgement.pdf>>

Yours sincerely

Freedom of the Information Team

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
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Dear HM Revenue and Customs,
Response to my request has been delayed. By law, authority should normally have responded promptly and by 30 December 2011
Please make an internal review of my request.
Direct link to my request:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/th...

Yours faithfully,

Christopher

HM Revenue and Customs

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Kowalczuk

Thank you for your email of 31 December 2012.

I am sorry to hear that you have not received the response to your Freedom of Information request. According to our records the response to your request was sent by email on 21 December 2011.

I have therefore attached a further copy of the response.

Please let me know if you would like to proceed with an Internal Review of your Freedom of Information request.

Regards,

David Ede
FOI/DPA Team, 1C/25
100 Parliament Street
London
SW1A 2BQ

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Dear HM Revenue and Customs,
Response to my request has been delayed. By law, authority should normally have responded promptly and by 30 December 2011.
Your response was delayed and does not contain information I have requested described in Tax Credits Consultation Group (TCCG) meeting 04 December 2008
the link:
http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/taxcredits/minute...
My request was for dealing with claims from nationals of European Economic Area countries where at least one of the rules should explain the situation that: HMRC need to write to the authorities of European Economic Area country,
As most of the claims( if not all of them) from EEA nationals go to the 'International Team' it is possible that 'International Team' use The rules for dealing with claims from nationals of European Economic Area .
I did not request the information that is already reasonably accessible www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals
Please proceed with an internal review of my request.

Yours faithfully,

Christopher

HM Revenue and Customs

Dear Mr Kowalczuk,

Thank you for your email dated 6 January 2012, in which you requested an
internal review of the handling of your FOI request. This is receiving
attention and we expect to complete the review by 3 February 2012. You
will be notified if there is any delay.

Yours sincerely

Teresa Chance
FOI Policy Adviser
Central Policy
Rm 1C/25
100 Parliament Street
London
SW1A 2BQ
Tel: 020 7147 3253
Fax: 020 7147 0666

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HM Revenue and Customs

Dear Mr Kowalczuk,

Your internal review is being finalised and should be issued to you
early next week.

Yours sincerely

Teresa Chance
FOI Policy Adviser
Central Policy
Rm 1C/25
100 Parliament Street
London
SW1A 2BQ
Tel: 020 7147 3253
Fax: 020 7147 0666

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Child Benefit Office, HM Revenue and Customs

 

 

  Date 10 February 2012    
  Our ref FOI 2718/11    

 

Dear Mr Kowalczuk

 

Thank you for your email of 6 January 2012 in which you have asked for an
internal review of your Freedom of Information request.   I have been
asked to review the handling of your request of 29 November 2011 and our
response to it.  In doing so, I have liaised with colleagues in the
relevant parts of HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

 

Your request.

 

You made your original Freedom of Information request on 29 November 2011
when you asked:

 

What are the rules for dealing with claims for nationals of European
Economic Area countries in relation to Child Benefit and tax credits.
 You then stated that rules exist and they were mentioned during a Tax
Credits Consultation Group meeting of 4 December 2008 whose minutes were
published on the HMRC internet.

 

Our response

 

On 21 December 2011 Marian Fletcher provided a response under the terms
of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

 

You were provided with HMRC Internet links to the Child Benefit Technical
Manual and the Tax Credits Technical Manual.  These manuals set out the
specific rules and regulations in law and an explanation of their meaning
or application in relation to claims to Child Benefit and tax credits. 
Marian also explained under section 21 of the Act, we are not required to
provide information in response to a request if it is already reasonably
accessible to you. 

 

Internal Review.

 

From the information you provided at the time you made your request I am
content that your request was replied to correctly.  From the way you
presented your question it was taken to mean you wanted to know about the
specific rules and regulations in law that allow these benefits to be
paid.  Concerning the minutes of the meeting, in this context when Stephen
Younger was talking about “the rules” he was explaining that in applying
Child Benefit and tax credit law i.e. the rules and regulations as shown
in our technical manuals, there were specific internal processes that
Child Benefit and tax credit staff needed to follow to get the required
information to settle a claim.  He went on to explain that, as we relied
upon others to give us the information we required to finalise an award,
cases can take some time to complete.

 

I note that on reading your request for a review you have been more
specific about the information you require in that you have asked for the
rules that our International teams use for dealing with claims from
customers dealing with claims from nations from the European Economic
area.

 

These teams still apply the rules and regulations as set out in the
published technical manuals.  However to help staff in Child Benefit
Office and Tax Credits Office apply the rules we have internal guidance
manuals for staff.  I am presuming that this is now what you wish to see.

 

For your information the Tax Credits staff manual can be found on the HMRC
website at

[1]http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals/tcmanual/...

 

Information relevant to your enquiry can be found at the link below:

 

[2]http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals/tcmanual/... However some
information is being withheld under s31 (1) (a) and s31(1)(g)  

of the Act.  This is explained in the next section of my review.

 

Similarly the staff have internal memo’s on how to deal with specific
scenarios in more complex cases that are not yet included in their manuals
and again under section 31(1) (a) of the Act I cannot release this
information. 

 

In relations to the Child Benefit Procedural Guide (CBPG) I can confirm
that at present this

is only available internally by officers within HMRC.  The CBPG is
currently being re-written and, at a future date, will be published on the
HMRC website for customer information, in line with other areas of HMRC. 
Because of that the current drafts are exempt from disclosure because of
section 22 FOIA which exempts information which is held by a public
authority with a view to its publication, by the authority or any other
person, at some future date (whether determined or not).  Some of the
information contained in the CBPG is likely to be withheld from the
published version of the guidance because it falls within the exemptions
of s31(1)(a) and s31(1)(g).  

 

Exemptions

 

1.  Information contained in the CBPG which is due to be published at a
future date is being withheld under s22(1) of the FOIA.

 

Section 22(1) FOIA applies if 3 conditions are met:-

 

a)      There was an intention to publish at the time the request was
received; there was, and

 

b)      It is reasonable to withhold the information until the planned
publication date, and

 

c)      It is not in the public interest to disclose the information.

 

In considering (b) and (c) above I have taken account of a number of
factors. 

 

I accept that it is reasonable and in the public interest that HMRC is
open about its procedures and practices.  But I take account of the fact
that that interest will be met by our planned future publication. 

 

The public interest in permitting public authorities to publish in a
manner and form and at a time of their own choosing is important.  It is a
part of the effective conduct of public affairs that the general
publication of information is a conveniently planned and managed activity
within the reasonable control of public authorities. Where they have taken
the decision in principle to publish, public authorities do have a
reasonable entitlement to make their own arrangements to do so. 

 

I also think that favouring a single applicant with the information could
result in “unfairness” to others who might be interested and I believe it
is fair and thus reasonable for the information to be disclosed to
everyone at the same time.  It would not be in the wider public interest
to favour one single applicant. Premature disclosure could undermine any
relevant pre-publication procedures, such as consultation with or
pre-disclosure to particular bodies.  On balance I therefore conclude it
is both reasonable and in the public interest to withhold this
information.

 

2.  Some unpublished internal guidance within the scope of your request is
being withheld under s31(1)(a) and s31(1)(g) of the Act.

 

Section 31(1)(a) states: 

 

31 Law enforcement.E+W+S+N.I.

(1)Information which is not exempt information by virtue of section 30 is
exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be
likely to, prejudice—

(a)the prevention or detection of crime,

Section 31(1)(g) states:

31 Law enforcement.E+W+S+N.I.

This section has no associated Explanatory Notes

(1)Information which is not exempt information by virtue of section 30 is
exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be
likely to, prejudice—

(g)the exercise by any public authority of its functions for any of the
purposes specified in subsection (2),

The specific function which I believe would be prejudiced is s31(2)(a) as
follows:   

 (2)The purposes referred to in subsection (1)(g) to (i) are—

(a)the purpose of ascertaining whether any person has failed to comply
with the law,

I believe that disclosure would be likely to undermine the procedures that
HMRC undertakes with regard to checking and verifying claims for Tax
Credits and Child Benefits made by EEA nationals. I have reached this
conclusion as we believe that the requested information could be used by
opportunistic individuals to fraudulently claim entitlement to benefits or
credits which are they are not legally entitled to claim.  Furthermore, if
we put information about our compliance regime and risks in the public
domain it would allow those individuals intent on abusing the system to
arrange their affairs or rehearse arguments to make it less likely that
they would be detected. 

Section 31 is a qualified exemption which means that, if it applies, I
must consider whether it is the public interest to override the exemption
and release the information.  I have very carefully considered this but
have decided that on balance it is not in the public interest to release
this information.  In coming to this conclusion, I have considered a
number of factors. 

 

I accept that there is strong public interest in ensuring that HMRC is
accountable for its decisions and is as transparent as possible about the
ways in which it reaches them.  Publishing the information requested
would, on the face of it reassure the public, that our compliance
activities are fair and robust and applied equitably.  This would increase
the public’s confidence in the administration of the benefits and credits
systems. 

There is also a general public interest in the public being aware of and
being able to challenge our decisions; knowledge of our procedures would
assist this.  But I also take into account that HMRC is subject to review
by external bodies such as the National Audit Office, the Adjudicator’s
Office and on an individual level the Tax Tribunals so the public interest
in our accountability is met by the oversight of those bodies. 

 

But there is also a strong public interest in HMRC being able to enforce
the law properly so that benefits and credits are only paid out to those
who are legally entitled to claim them.  Anything that might assist those
intent on abusing the system is not in the public interest. 

Anything that puts at risk our compliance activities could undermine
public confidence.  This could damage the general climate of honesty among
the overwhelming majority of claimants who use the system properly and
that is not in the public interest. 

 

So on balance I conclude it is not in the public interest to set aside the
exemption.

 

Additional Information

 

Although information is being withheld under s22 because it is intended
for future publication, I would like to provide the following explanation
outside of our obligations under the Act, in order to be helpful.  When we
receive a claim from a customer who is from abroad, their claims are
handled by the Child Benefit Office and Tax Credit Office International
sections.  These claims are generally more complex and further enquiries
often need to be made before a decision can be given.  This means that
they can take longer to process.  We try to provide a good service to all
our customers and keep them informed about their claims. 

 

Where customers are from abroad they have very different sets of
circumstances and until we receive their claim we cannot tell which if any
further documentation we might require from them.  Depending on their
country of origin we must make further enquiries with them and / or the
foreign authorities to establish their right to United Kingdom Child
Benefit. 

 

We may also need to make further enquiries with the customers and the
foreign authorities concerning the family’s composition and whereabouts,
their presence in the United Kingdom, any benefits paid or previously paid
whilst they were abroad.  We relyupon customers and the authorities to
reply to us and to give us the information we ask for.  Unfortunately we
have no control over their timescales.

 

Also under Child Benefit law we may need to make enquiries and have to
obtain details of the employment conditions to establish the customer’s
right to the benefit for the child in question. Again this process can
take some time to complete and whilst we make our enquiries we cannot make
any payments.  Again if the customers or their employers do not give us
all the information we ask for inevitably there will be a delay as we
cannot pay monies where there may be no entitlement to the benefit.

 

For your further information you may wish to read our leaflet CH5NOTES
which can also be accessed on our website at [3]www.hmrc.gov.uk.child
benefit/leaflets.  This also gives some information about our rules to
Child Benefit for customers who have recently arrived from abroad.     

 

Appeal Process

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Yvonne Aubrey

Freedom of Information Unit

Child Benefit Office

 

 

Please do not click on 'reply' to this email. If you do other people using
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If you need to reply, click on the link below.

Reply from our website at:

[4]http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/childbenefit/cont...

 

 

Child Benefit Office

 

Website: [5]www.hmrc.gov.uk/childbenefit

 

 

Helplines:

Great Britain: 0845 302 1444

Minicom / Textphone: 0845 302 1474

 

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.

References

Visible links
1. http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals/tcmanual/...
2. http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals/tcmanual/...
3. http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/
4. http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/childbenefit/cont...
5. http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/childbenefit

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