FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Jonathan Slosser,
Complainants
against Docket #FIC 1999-151
Elaine M. Leon, Director, State of Connecticut, Department of
Revenue Services, Taxpayer Services Division; State of
Connecticut, Department of Revenue Services, Taxpayer
Services Division; Donna F. Haghighat, Tax Attorney, State of
Connecticut, Department of Revenue Services, Legal Division;
and State of Connecticut, Department of Revenue Services,
Legal Division
Respondents August 11, 1999

        The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 16, 1999, at which time the complainant and the respondents 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 respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-200(1), G.S. [formerly 1-18a(1) G.S.]

        2. By letter dated February 27, 1999, the complainant requested that the respondents provide him with the farmer’s tax exemption permit for White Memorial Foundation in Litchfield (hereinafter "the permit").

        3. By letter dated March 9, 1999, the complainant again requested the permit, as well as DMV E-110, "Farm Registration Certification" for certain specified vehicles (hereinafter "the form").

        4. By letter dated March 9, 1999, the respondents denied the complainant’s request as described in paragraph 2, above, citing 12-15, G. S.

        5. By letter dated March 10, 1999, the complainant objected to the denial described in paragraph 4, above.

        6. By letter dated March 18, 1999, the respondents denied the complainant’s request as described in paragraph 3, above, citing 12-15, G. S.

        7. By letter dated March 26, 1999 and filed with the Commission on March 29, 1999, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act by denying him access to the permit and the form. The complainant requested the imposition of civil penalties in this matter.

        8. It is found that, to that the extent the permit and form exist, such records are public records within the meaning of 1-200(5), G.S. [formerly 1-18a(5), G.S.]

        9. Section 1-210(a), G.S. [formerly 1-19(a), G.S.], provides in relevant part:

[e]xcept as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency…shall be public records and every person shall have the right to inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours or to receive a copy of such records…."

        10. The respondents contend that, to the extent that they may maintain the permit and the form, such records are exempt by virtue of 12-15(a), G.S. Such statute provides in relevant part that:

[n]o officer or employee, including any former officer or former employee, of the state or of any other person who has or had access to returns or return information…shall disclose or inspect any return or return information….

        11. Moreover, 12-15(g), G.S., provides in relevant part that:

[a]ny person who violates any provision of this section shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

        12. Section 12-15(h), G.S., defines "return information" as:

…a taxpayer's identity, the nature, source, or amount of the taxpayer's income, payments, receipts, deductions, exemptions, credits, assets, liabilities, net worth, tax liability, tax collected or withheld, tax underreportings, tax overreportings, or tax payments, whether the taxpayer's return was, is being, or will be examined or subjected to other investigation or processing, or any other data received by, recorded by, prepared by, furnished to, or collected by the commissioner 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 other 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. Nothing in the preceding sentence, or in any other provision of law, shall be construed to require the disclosure of standards used or to be used for the selection of returns for examination, or data used or to be used for determining such standards or the disclosure of the identity of a confidential informant, whether or not a civil or criminal tax investigation has been undertaken or completed.

(Emphasis added).

 

        13. The complainant contends that the White Memorial Foundation is not a taxpayer, and that therefore 12-15(a) cannot apply. However, it is concluded that the definition of return information includes data relating to a determination of tax liability, which necessarily includes the possibility of no liability.

        14. The complainant next contends that, since the form is available for public inspection at the Department of Motor Vehicles, it cannot be exempt in the custody of the respondents. However, it is found that, if the respondents maintain the form, it is "…data received by… furnished to, or collected by the commissioner with respect to…the determination of the existence, or possible existence, of liability of any person for any tax, penalty, interest, fine, forfeiture, or other imposition, or offense…," and thus "return information" within the meaning of 12-15(h), G.S.

        15. Accordingly, it is concluded that the form is exempt from mandatory disclosure pursuant to 12-15(a), G.S., and it is further concluded that the respondents did not violate 1-210(a), G.S. [formerly 1-19(a), G.S.], by denying the complainant access thereto.

        16. It is found that the permit is "…data…prepared by…the commissioner with respect to…the determination of the existence, or possible existence, of liability of any person for any tax, penalty, interest, fine, forfeiture, or other imposition, or offense…," and thus "return information" within the meaning of 12-15(h), G.S.

        17. Accordingly, it is concluded that the permit is exempt from mandatory disclosure pursuant to 12-15(a), G.S., and it is further concluded that the respondents did not violate 1-210(a), G.S. [formerly 1-19(a), G.S.], by denying the complainant access thereto.

        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.

 

        Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of

August 11, 1999.

 

 

_________________________

Melanie R. Balfour

Acting Clerk of the Commission

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:

 

Jonathan Slosser
111 Waverly Place
New York, New York 10011
Elaine M. Leon, Director, State of Connecticut,
Department of Revenue Services, Taxpayer
Services Division; State of Connecticut,
Department of Revenue Services, Taxpayer
Services Division; Donna F. Haghighat, Tax
Attorney, State of Connecticut, Department of
Revenue Services, Legal Division; and State of
Connecticut, Department of Revenue Services,
Legal Division
c/o Paul M. Scimonelli, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
55 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106

 

 

__________________________

Melanie R. Balfour

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC1999-151FD/mes/08111999