Association Non-Governmental Organizations Center Razgrad vs. the National Revenue Agency Razgrad
First Instance Court - administrative case No. 55/2009, Administrative court - Razgrad
Second Instance Court administrative case No. 9995/2009, SAC, Fifth Division
On April 7, 2009 Georgi Milkov, chairman of the association Non-Governmental Orgaznizations Center Razgrad, submitted a request to the National Revenue Agency (NRA) Razgrad. He demanded access to the first page of tax returns submitted to the NRA by the association Center for Economic Development Razgrad for the period 2000-2008. The information available on the first page of each tax return relates to received funds and donations. The requestor was interested whether the association declared incomes from commercial activities and if positive - what were these activities; whether the association declared any profit and if positive what was the exact amount.
With a decision as of April 16, 2009 the Director of the NRA Regional Directorate Varna, Razgrad office, refused access on the ground that such information shall be sought under the Tax-Insurance Procedure Code as it falls outside the scope of the APIA.
The refusal was challenged before the Administrative Court Razgrad. The complaint stressed out the overriding public interest in disclosing the information as it would increase transparency and accountability of the Razgrad Municipality. Supporting argument is the fact that the former mayor of Razgrad is a chairman of the Board of Center for Economic Development Razgrad, and thecurrent mayor is a member. In addition, the Municipal Council bestowed to the association two buildings in Razgrad.
Developments in the Court of First Instance:
The case was heard in an open court session and was scheduled for judgment.
With a Decision No. 37 as of June 9, 2009 a panel of the Administrative Court Razgrad dismissed the complaint. According to the court the information consisted tax and insurance information as defined by Art. 72 of the Tax-Insurance Procedure Code and access to it cannot be sought under the APIA.
The first instance decision was appealed to the SAC.
Developments in the Court of Second Instance:
The case was heard in an open court session on February 10, 2010 and was scheduled for judgment.
With decision as of February 16, 2010 a panel of the SAC rescinded the first instance decision, the refusal of the NRA and returned the case for reconsideration according to the binding instructions as to the application of the law. The justices found that the requested information did not fall outside the scope of the APIA. According to the court if the tax authority receives a request for such information, it is required to assess whether the affected party is not an obliged body under the APIA or whether there is overriding public interest in disclosing the information. If none of these circumstances are present, the tax authority shall seek the consent of the person to whom the information relates, pursuant to Art.31 of the APIA. Only after receiving an answer from that party the authority may take a decision.