|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
March 7, 2000
Ms. Ruth H. Soucy
Dear Ms. Soucy:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under the Public Information Act, chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 132729.
The Comptroller of Public Accounts (the "comptroller") received a request for all of its records relating to a specified corporate entity. You state that you have released certain information in accordance with Open Records Letter No. 99-3478 (1999). You claim that other responsive information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and have reviewed the information you submitted.(1)
Section 552.101 of the Government Code excepts from required public disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." Statutory confidentiality under section 552.101 generally requires express language making certain information confidential or prohibiting its release to the public. See Open Records Decision No. 478 at 2 (1987). You claim that the submitted information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 in conjunction with sections 111.006 and 151.027 of the Tax Code. Chapter 111 of the Tax Code pertains to the collection of taxes. Section 111.006 provides in relevant part:
(a) The following matter is confidential and may not be used publicly, opened to public inspection, or disclosed except as permitted by this section:
. . .
(2) all information secured, derived, or obtained by the comptroller . . . during the course of an examination of the taxpayer's books, records, papers, officers, or employees, including an examination of the business affairs, operations, source of income, profits, losses, or expenditures of the taxpayer.
Tax Code § 111.006(a)(2). Chapter 151 of the Tax Code pertains to sales, excise, and use taxes. Section 151.027 provides in relevant part:
(a) Information in or derived from a record, report, or other instrument required to be furnished under this chapter is confidential and not open to public inspection[.]
(b) Information secured, derived, or obtained during the course of an examination of a taxpayer's books, records, papers, officers, or employees, including the business affairs, operations, profits, losses, and expenditures of the taxpayer, is confidential and not open to public inspection[.]
Tax Code § 151.027(a), (b).
You state that a portion of the submitted information is the result of an audit of a taxpayer by the comptroller. You assert that the information relating to the audit is protected under section 111.006 of the Tax Code. Based on your representations and our review of the information relating to the audit, we conclude that a portion of that information is confidential under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with section 111.006 of the Tax Code. We have marked the information relating to the audit that the comptroller must withhold under section 111.006. The other submitted information relating to the audit is not confidential and must be released.
You describe the other information that you seek to withhold as sales tax information reported to the comptroller by a taxpayer or derived or calculated from information provided in the taxpayer's reports. You state that the public portion of the sales tax information has been provided to the requestor. You assert that the sales tax information that you seek to withhold is confidential under section 151.027 of the Tax Code. Based on your representations and our review of that information, we conclude that the sales tax information in question is confidential under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with section 151.027 of the Tax Code. Therefore, you must withhold the sales tax information that the comptroller has not already released to the requestor.
This letter ruling is limited to the particular records at issue in this request and limited to the facts as presented to us; therefore, this ruling must not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records or any other circumstances.
This ruling triggers important deadlines regarding the rights and responsibilities of the governmental body and of the requestor. For example, governmental bodies are prohibited from asking the attorney general to reconsider this ruling. Gov't Code § 552.301(f). If the governmental body wants to challenge this ruling, the governmental body must appeal by filing suit in Travis County within 30 calendar days. Id. § 552.324(b). In order to get the full benefit of such an appeal, the governmental body must file suit within 10 calendar days. Id. § 552.353(b)(3), (c). If the governmental body does not appeal this ruling and the governmental body does not comply with it, then both the requestor and the attorney general have the right to file suit against the governmental body to enforce this ruling. Id. § 552.321(a).
If this ruling requires the governmental body to release all or part of the requested information, the governmental body is responsible for taking the next step. Based on the statute, the attorney general expects that, within 10 calendar days of this ruling, the governmental body will do one of the following three things: 1) release the public records; 2) notify the requestor of the exact day, time, and place that copies of the records will be provided or that the records can be inspected; or 3) notify the requestor of the governmental body's intent to challenge this letter ruling in court. If the governmental body fails to do one of these three things within 10 calendar days of this ruling, then the requestor should report that failure to the attorney general's Open Government Hotline, toll free, at 877/673-6839. The requestor may also file a complaint with the district or county attorney. Id. § 552.3215(e).
If this ruling requires or permits the governmental body to withhold all or some of the requested information, the requestor can appeal that decision by suing the governmental body. Id. § 552.321(a); Texas Department of Public Safety v. Gilbreath, 842 S.W.2d 408, 411 (Tex. App.-Austin 1992, no writ).
If the governmental body, the requestor, or any other person has questions or comments about this ruling, they may contact our office. Although there is no statutory deadline for contacting us, the attorney general prefers to receive any comments within 10 calendar days of the date of this ruling.
James W. Morris, III
Ref: ID# 132729
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Karen K. Kristopher
1. In light of the requestor's letter of January 8, 2000, we note that the Public Information Act does not require a governmental body to provide a party that requests access to information with a detailed listing of each document that the governmental body seeks to withhold from public disclosure. See Gov't Code § 552.301(d) (providing that governmental body must provide requestor with written statement that it wishes to withhold requested information and has requested decision from attorney general as to whether information is within exception to public disclosure).
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