This page contains the answers to Frequently Asked Questions about FOI. Further questions are always welcome - please email your questions to email@example.com. If you cannot find the answer to your question here or require further information, please contact the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, Information Management Branch, Freedom of Information Unit, Ground Floor, Cross Block, Dublin Castle, Dublin 2 (tel 01 - 7020850; fax 01 - 7024203; email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
- What is FOI?
- Who can make a request?
- How much will it cost?
- What is considered under FOI?
- What records are available without using the FOI Act?
- Will I get everything for which I ask?
- What are exemptions?
- Who makes the decision?
- What do I do, if I'm not happy with the decision?
- How is my information protected?
- What is "public interest"?
- Can I see records held on my children?
- Can I find the identity of someone who made an allegation against me?
FOI is short for the Freedom of Information Act. This Act allows people to make "requests" for access to records, amendment of records or reasons for a decision of a public body.
If the request is not relating to your own personal information, then the cost will be €15 (€10 if you hold a medical card). If there is a substantial amount of records involved, there may be "search and retrieval" fees incurred. If this arises you will notified of an approximate amount within two weeks. Fees will also be incurred in respect of internal and external appeals.
Almost any record held by a public body can be sought under FOI. The only necessity (unless you are seeking reasons for a decision) is that it is contained in an existing record. There are some exceptions such as Attorney General advice and material prepared in response to parliamentary questions. The biggest exception is for material, which is already available to the public, even if it is at a fee. It is advisable to contact the Central Unit to establish whether the material is available before submitting the request.
Records relating to Revenue rules and procedures which are published in the Section 16 guide , PAYE records may be requested directly from your local tax office. A Guide (MS Word, 25KB) to what PAYE records is available. Contact details are available at the following link Contact Locator
Not all records, which may be sought under FOI, will be made available to the requester. Some records will be released in edited versions or refused outright. The reason for this is that certain material may be considered sensitive or private. Such material is protected by exemptions.
Exemptions are conditions under which certain records are protected. This includes material relating to investigations, legal advices, and records relating to another business or individual. Some of these are refused outright and some are tested to see if the records could cause "harm" if they were released.
The decision maker in Revenue is usually a Higher Executive Officer or Assistant Principal in the Division or Region holding the material. If the records sought are held in various areas, there may be more than one decision maker. How long will the process take? There is a twenty working day limit for reply. What happens if Revenue goes over the time limit? If there are any delays or difficulties, you will be contacted and kept aware of the situation.
There is a right of appeal to have the decision reviewed internally by a more senior officer (usually a Principal Officer). There is a fifteen working day limit on this review. If you are still unhappy, there is right of appeal for an external review to the Office of the Information Commissioner. This right may only be exercised when the decision is first appealed internally.
Your personal information will be refused to any third party. Your company's sensitive information may be protected if it could cause harm to your company. Information given in confidence also protected subject to fulfilling certain criteria. All of these are subject to a "public interest test".
A public interest test allows for the release of otherwise exempt records where there would be a wider public good achieved by releasing the records than withholding it. This should not be taken to mean that information, which would merely be of interest to the public or satisfy curiosity, would be released.
Yes. The FOI Act provides for parents/guardians to avail of the provisions of the Act on behalf of their children. Can I see the records of a deceased person?An individual may seek or amend records of a deceased person if the decision maker is of the opinion that there is a legal or familial entitlement on the requester to do so.
The FOI Act provides for the protection of the identity of a person who has submitted information in confidence in relation to enforcement of civil law. Information submitted by a person relating to criminal law is not covered by the FOI Act.