The ROPS list is essential reading for all UK payroll and pensions professionals. Updated twice-monthly, it provides a list of all overseas pension schemes that have advised HMRC that they want to be included on it.
However, this does not mean that any scheme that is listed is tax-advantaged or that transfers in or out of them are free from UK tax.
Nevertheless, when the list is updated on the 1st and 15th of the month, professionals need to be aware of it and need to know the changes. After all, what is the point of updating a list if we don’t know the updates that have been made?
For many months now, colleagues and I have been concerned that HMRC have not been providing the necessary details for professionals to know what schemes have been added or removed from the list. As far as I could see, the last time that HMRC provided this information was on 01 March 2016 when they detailed the 40 schemes that had been added. This level of detail was ‘patchy’ to say the least before that date.
So, I thought I would drop a quick Freedom of Information (FOI) request to HMRC.
The FOI Wording
I said the following:
Dear HM Revenue and Customs,
The recognised overseas pension schemes notification list was updated on 15 December 2017 with ‘8 schemes added and 5 removed’.
It is absolutely vital that UK payroll and pension professionals know the names of the ones that have been added and removed rather than having to search the whole document and compare to the previous version. The last time these details were published seems to be 01 March 2016.
The importance of this list to UK professionals does not seem to be recognised and it is essential that we are kept updated with changes to it. On behalf of the payroll / reward / accounts professions:
- I would like to see Gov.UK publish the names in all future updates
- Also, please provide a comprehensive list of all the changes for the current 2017/18 tax year
The FOI Reply
On 17 January I received the following replies to my two questions:
Unfortunately, this question does not fall under the FOI regime. A request for information has to include a description of the information requested for it to be a valid request under the Act.
It then went on to say:
We are exploring the possibility of publishing the names of the schemes removed, added or amended to the list of Recognised Overseas Pensions Schemes on GOV.UK.
I suppose the last line about them ‘exploring’ publishing details is better than nothing.
I can confirm that HMRC hold the information you have requested. The information is exempt from disclosure under section 21 of the FOIA because it is already reasonably accessible to you. The information you requested is published on the Department’s website at the following link:https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/list-of-qualifying-recognised-overseas-pension-schemes-qrops/list-of-recognised-overseas-pension-schemes-notifications
If it was ‘reasonably accessible’ I would not have sent the FOI request in the first place! However, there is no way that I am going through the hundreds of names on there and comparing it to the last list to see if I can spot the ones that have been added, removed or amended.
Nor should HMRC expect me or any professional to do so.
I am pretty determined to get this information out of HMRC and was advised:
If you are not happy with this reply you may request a review by emailing email@example.com. You must request a review within 2 months of the date of this letter. It would help us carry out our review if you set out the aspects of the reply that concern you and why you are dissatisfied.
I did E-Mail firstname.lastname@example.org and, essentially, said that I would not have made the request if the information was reasonably accessible so this reply was silly. Unsurprisingly, the E-Mail came back as undelivered. I referred this to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) who suggested that I pursue it through the ‘Whatdotheyknow’ Website through which I originally made the FOI request.
Therefore, on behalf of the payroll and pensions professions I have requested a review stating:
Dear HM Revenue and Customs,
Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.
I am writing to request an internal review of HM Revenue and Customs’ handling of my FOI request ‘Overseas pensions: recognised overseas pension schemes notification list’.
I am querying the response ‘I can confirm that HMRC hold the information you have requested. The information is exempt from disclosure under section 21 of the FOIA because it is already reasonably accessible to you’.
This is not a reasonable reply to a reasonable request for information. If the information was reasonably accessible I would not have requested it in the first place. I wonder if HMRC expect me and other professionals to look at the ROPS list every time it is published to see if we can find the additions, deletions and amendments.
Let’s see where we go with that! If they have the information anyway then they should pass this onto the professions that use the list.
They have done with the FOI request I put in about lack of detail every time they update List 3 for professional subscriptions.