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The Day in FoIA: HMRC crackdown on freelance tax dodge | Polar bear researcher reprimanded of leaked emails | Empty council buildings in Worcestershire cost £150K

HMRC crackdown on freelance tax dodge used by BBC and civil servants
Figures show that the amount of money recovered by HMRC from investigations into the suspected underpayment has increased fivefold in the past year, to reach more than £1million.
Officials have also doubled, to reach more than 50, the number of probes into alleged abuses by employees who set up “personal service companies” in order to pay corporation tax rather than paying income tax and National Insurance through the PAYE system.
The new figures, obtained under Freedom of Information Act requests, show that in 2009 HMRC carried out just 12 investigations under IR35, the Labour law that allows the authorities to tax freelancers at a higher rate if it is believed that they do actually have just one employer.
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Martin Beckford | The Telegraph | 1st October 2012
US: Cleared of misconduct, polar-bear researcher is reprimanded for leaked e-mails
A US Department of Interior (DOI) researcher whose observations of drowned polar bears rallied advocates for action on climate change has been exonerated of scientific misconduct. But the public release, on 28 September, of an investigation by the DOI inspector-general (IG) reveals that the researcher, Charles Monnett, has been found guilty on another charge: leaking e-mails that helped environmental groups to sue the government over its approval of plans by Shell Oil to conduct oil and gas exploration in the Arctic.
The IG report was obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act and placed online by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a Washington DC-based advocacy group that is representing Monnett, who works for the DOI’s Bureau for Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The report criticizes Monnett and one of his co-authors for using an incomplete data set when, in a 2006  article, they reported seeing four drowned polar bears that they suggested had died in a storm while swimming in search of sea ice. But a spokeswoman for the BOEM, Theresa Eisenman, says the agency concluded that the investigators’ findings “do not support a conclusion that the individual scientists involved engaged in scientific misconduct”.
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Eugenie Samuel Reich | Nature News Blogs | 1st October 2012
Empty council buildings in Worcestershire cost £150K
A councillor says he is “shocked and outraged” at figures revealing the cost of maintaining empty council buildings in Worcestershire.
Freedom of Information figures obtained by the BBC show 66 council buildings stood empty in 2011/12, costing local authorities £150,000 to keep secure.
Councillor Peter McDonald said the money could be used to create jobs.
Worcestershire County Council said it was trying to sell or lease out some of their 21 buildings not in use.
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BBC | 2nd October 2012

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