FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Glenn D. Newell and Margaret R. Newell,
against Docket #FIC 92-371
State of Connecticut, Department of Revenue Services,
Respondent May 26, 1993
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 22, 1993, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
2. By letter of complaint dated December 16, 1992, and filed with the Commission on December 17, 1992, the complainants alleged that the respondent refused to provide them with a complete copy of complainant Margaret Newell's individual use tax account file number 777103-957 (hereinafter "file").
3. It is found that beginning in October of 1992, the complainants made oral requests and at least one written request for a copy of all records in the file.
4. It is found that by letter dated November 23, 1992, the respondent partially complied with the complainants' records request.
5. It is found that the respondent failed to provide the complainants with additional documents contained in the file, including a copy of a document referred to as the "confidential source document" (hereinafter "source document").
Docket #FIC 92-371 Page 2
6. The respondent claims that 12-15(d)(2), G.S., provides an exemption to disclosure of the source document.
7. The respondent also maintains that the source document identifies the "informant" whose allegations, conduct or observations were used to assess the use tax for which complainant Margaret Newell is responsible, and it is impossible to redact the informant's identity from the source document.
8. The respondent claims no exemption to disclosure for additional documentation in the file that was offered to the complainants for the first time at the hearing on this matter.
9. It is found that the records sought are public records within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S.
10. It is concluded that the respondent violated the provisions of 1-15 and 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to promptly provide the complainant with all nonexempt information contained in the file.
11. The respondent submitted a copy of the source document to the Commission for in camera inspection.
12. Section 12-15, G.S., generally limits the inspection or disclosure of tax returns or return information.
13. Section 12-15(a)(5), G.S., however, states in relevant part that:
... [t]he commissioner [of Revenue Services] or the commissioner's authorized agent may disclose ...(5) returns or return information to a taxpayer or its authorized representative, upon written request for a return filed by or return information on such taxpayer; ....(Emphasis added.)
14. Section 12-15(d)(2), G.S., defines "return information" as:
...a taxpayer's identity, the nature, source, or amount of the taxpayer's income, payments, ...assets, liabilities, net worth, tax liability, ...or any data received by, recorded by, prepared by, furnished to, or collected by the commissioner [of Revenue Services] with respect to a return or with respect to the determination of the existence, or possible existence, of liability of any person for any tax, penalty, interest, fine, forfeiture, or imposition, or offense. "Return information" does not include data in a form which cannot be associated with, or otherwise identify, directly or indirectly, a particular taxpayer....
Docket #FIC 92-371 Page 3
15. It is found that the source document is return information within the meaning of 12-15(d)(2), G.S.
16 It is further found that 12-15(a)(5), G.S., does not require disclosure of return information. Rather, the Commissioner of Revenue Services can exercise his discretion to disclose such information.
17. It is concluded, therefore, that although the source document is a public record within the meaning of 1-18a(d), G.S., the record may be withheld from public disclosure under 1-19(a), G.S., by operation of 12-15(a)(5), G.S.
18. After a careful in camera review of the source document, however, it is found that it does not directly name or identify any individual except complainant Margaret Newell.
19. It is further found that the source document does not directly identify any category of record or person for which an exemption to disclosure applies under either 12-15(d)(2) or 1-19(a), G.S.; the bulk of the information listed on the source document is nothing more than numerical or coded data.
20. Since the respondent provided the complainants with copies of all other records existing in the file at the time of compliance, and given the fact that the complainants already have some knowledge of the contents and origin of the source document, the Commission believes that the respondent's exercise of discretion to withhold the source document is arbitrary and capricious in this instance.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The complaint is hereby dismissed.
2. The Commission urges the respondent to reconsider its denial, and in the interests of fairness to the complainants and good faith compliance with the Freedom of Information Act, provide the complainants with a copy of the source document as it presently exists, or in redacted form.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 26, 1993.
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 92-371 Page 4
PURSUANT TO SECTION 4-180(c), G.S. THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION, OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.
THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:
Glenn D. Newell and Margaret R. Newell
17 Webb Road
Naugatuck, CT 06770
State of Connecticut, Department of Revenue Services
c/o Jonathan L. Ensign, Asst. Atty. General
110 Sherman Street
Hartford, CT 06105
Debra L. Rembowski
Acting Clerk of the Commission