Publication - FOI/EIR release

Correspondence relating to behavioural analysis on income tax: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Published:
9 Dec 2019
Correspondence relating to behavioural analysis on income tax: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/19/02488
Date received: 7 Nov 2019
Date responded: 5 Dec 2019
Information requested

You asked for any civil servant briefings or documents that include behavioral analysis on income tax in 2019.

Response

I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested at Annex 1.

Some of the information you have requested is available from https://www.gov.scot/publications/council-of-economic-advisers-minutes-may-2019/. Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website(s) listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because an exemption(s) under section(s) s.27(1) - information intended for future publication, s.29(1)(a) - Formulation of Scottish Government policy - s.30(b)(i) free and frank provision of advice and 30(b)(ii) - free and frank exchange of views, of FOISA applies to that information.

The reasons why that exemption(s) applies are explained in Annex 2.

Our aim is to provide information whenever possible. However, in this instance, some of the information you have requested is not held by the Scottish Government for the purposes of FOISA because we received it in confidence from the UK Government. This means that, under the terms of section 3(2)(a)(ii) of FOISA, we are unable to disclose it in response to your request. However, you may wish to submit a new request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) to HMRC at HM Revenue and Customs, BX9 1AS, United Kingdom or foi.request@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk who should be able to help you further.

ANNEX 1
INFORMATION REQUESTED
A briefing was prepared for the First Minister ahead a meeting. Only a part of this briefing is in scope of your FoI request, and I’ve included the relevant section as an extract here:

  • Confirmation that there were no significant developments in the evidence base around behavioural responses to differential income tax policies that would require a fundamental review of the Council’s previous advice.

ANNEX 2
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION
An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test

An exemption under section s.27(1) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. This exemption allows public authorities to refuse to disclose information if they already plan to publish it within the next 12 weeks. This applies to minutes of the Council of Economic Advisors recent teleconference.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is some public interest in release because it will improve the public’s understanding of the analysis underpinning behavioral change assumptions within Government. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in taking the time necessary to ensure the information has been properly collated and checked before it is published as planned. Also, we see no public interest in disrupting our programme of work to release the information ahead of the intended publication date. The Council have not yet met to agree and clear these draft minutes, and so publishing them in advance of this could damage SG relations with the Council, negatively impacting on future work and advice. Additionally, it is in the public interest to ensure that these minutes are correct when published, which will be confirmed when the minutes have been assessed and cleared by relevant parties. These will be published within 12 weeks, at the website quoted above (where the minutes of the May meeting are already available).

An exemption under section s.29(1)(a) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. This exempts information from disclosure if it relates to the formulation or development of government policy.
This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is some public interest in release because we wish to be an open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in that there is a greater public interest in high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on income tax and behavioral change will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government’s view on that policy while it is still under discussion and development.

An exemption under section s.30(b)(i) and s.30(b)(ii) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. These exempt information from being disclosed where disclosure would, or would likely, cause substantial harm to the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation or the free and frank provision of advice.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is some public interest in release because we are part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in allowing a private space within which officials can provide full and frank advice to Ministers and other officials, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s policy position on income tax and how it is affected by behavioral change, until the Government as a whole can adopt a policy position that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, based on the best available advice, so that good policy decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers and officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the policy making process, which would not be in the public interest.

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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

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