Totev vs. Chief Tax Director
Dimitar Chavdarov Totev, a lawyer working for a consulting company, submitted
an application for obtaining access to information, requesting a copy of
the letter by the Chief Tax Director (CTD) with interpretation of provisions
of the Tax Procedure Code (TPC). The letter was issued in reply to questions
raised by an individual or a legal entity, and Mr. Totev learned about its
contents from the local Black Sea newspaper.
On 31 July 2000, Mr. Totev requested that information orally from the
local tax office but he was refused access.
On 1 August 2000, he submitted an application in writing for obtaining
access to public information to CTD, requesting a copy of the letter.
He stated explicitly that he did not want disclosure of any personal data
of the person to whom CTD sent the letter.
Within the 14-day time limits prescribed by law, CTD sent a letter (dated
1 August 2000) to Mr. Totev, refusing to grant access to the document
and stating that the requested information did not constitute public information
within the meaning of Art. 2, para 1 of APIA and that the requested information
constituted administrative secret within the meaning of §1,subpara1 of
the Additional Provisions of TPC.
After he received the refusal, Mr. Totev contacted the AIP team and there
was prepared a submitted an appeal to the Sofia City Court against the
refusal by CTD. The case was heard at the Sofia City Court in two sessions
on 6 March 2001 and 12 June 2001. The court rejected the claim as groundless
(judgement dated 23 July 2001)
The court considered the claim groundless, stating that the requested
information was public within the meaning of APIA but it constituted administrative
secret within the meaning of TPC. Besides, the judgement indicated that
a third party was affected and its consent was not requested by the application
who had the obligation to do so. The judgement was appealed before the
Supreme Administrative Court with a request to repeal the wrong judgement
and to decide the case on merit.
Arguments of the Parties:
The arguments of the appeal are that the information was public because
it concerns all and gives an idea of the way the tax administration applies
the existing legislation. The information is not a secret because the
citizen has requested that the name of the company mentioned in the letter
of CTD be deleted before a copy of the letter is made available. It is
a fact that such letters are published in the form of brochures and sold
in bookstores. They are also disseminated through legal information software
The objections of the defendant state that since a secret has been invoked,
APIA is inapplicable and, besides, the CTD letter contains instructions
to grant access to information on the basis of specific request.
Firstly, it is quite telling that the Chief Tax Director has refused to
grant access to the requested information by means of a letter rather
than a decision as required under Art. 38 of APIA. Besides, the content
of the decision to refuse to grant access does not comply with the requirements
of the said Article (more specifically, it is not clear what the actual
grounds for the refusal are and what appeal procedure can be applied).
Secondly, as is seen in the above mentioned letter (dated 1 August 2000),
the Director has never made the effort to check whether opportunities
existed under Art. 37, para 2 for granting partial access.
The case also reveals insufficient knowledge of the obligations under
APIA, leading to gross non-performance of duties by the respective government