Straws in the windJanuary 9, 2017
You may remember that in 2012 I published the rules for production of a tax impact assessment here, after I obtained them via a Freedom of Information Act (FoI) request. I remain surprised that they are not on the gov.uk publication schedule like the instructions for Regulatory Impact Assessments since they are the equivalent. Well, 2012 is a while ago, so on 7th November I made a FoI request for an updated copy and received an automated response with a reference number.
A month went by, so I sent a little reminder that the twenty working days deadline had been breached, and received an email back which said
Unfortunately I am currently unable to confirm your request for information being received by the Freedom of Information Team. I have noted the reference number you have provided would have been generated by one of the department’s online enquiry forms but am unable to trace your request…
The email went on to ask me for a phone number and I had a conversation with them where they said that my request – and, judging from the reference number, a number of others – had been lost in the system. I emailed it again directly, and I’m still waiting for a response.
Except… well, last week I received this:
Please do not reply to this email.
Thank you for contacting HMRC. You have submitted an on line enquiry using an incorrect system to a mailbox which is no longer monitored. Due to this, I am unable to reply due to Data Security issues. Could you please direct your enquiry to the correct department by following the attached hyper-link or by reviewing your Personal Tax Account, details for which are below:
Is this a phishing email? (Because who follows hyperlinks from emails, seriously?) Or is it a response to my original FoI request (which was made on the page I got from putting “FoI” and “HMRC” into Google – I find “incorrect system” a bit annoying tbh). Am I ever actually going to get a response to my FoI request – which I made twice, once to the automated system and once in a clear email to the person who had phoned me, and I imagine the information commissioner will find at least one of those to be a valid request. Look HMRC, what the hell is going on?
OK, but obviously the FoI form is a separate part of the HMRC computer system: a failure there won’t have any impact on the system they build for MTD, right? I mean, right???
Edit: this morning I received this response from the HMRC phishing email address:
Thank you for contacting HM Revenue & Customs.
The e-mail / phone call you received was from HM Revenue & Customs and is nothing to be concerned about.
If you think this communication is incorrect, you may wish to contact the relevant HMRC business area. HMRC contact details are published within the link below:
If your query relates to HMRC online services, you can contact our Online Services Helpdesk by telephone – 0300 200 3600 (opening times 08.00-20.00 Monday to Friday, 08.00-16.00 Saturday), or by following the link below
HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com
HMRC Online Security Team
I’m really none the wiser.