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To ask the Scottish Government when it will publish an analysis of responses to its recent consultation on rates reform.

Answered by Kate Forbes (22/02/2019):

The Scottish Government has today published two reports. Firstly, an independent analysis report [ ] of the 148 responses submitted to the Barclay Implementation: A consultation on non-domestic rates reform . Secondly, the final report of the Barclay Implementation Advisory Group [ ]. Where permission has been given to publish a consultation response this can be found on the Scottish Government Consultation Hub [ ].

The Scottish Government aims to introduce the Non Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament before Easter Recess. The provisions in the Bill, subject to parliamentary approval will result in a non-domestic rates system that will better support business growth, long term investment and reflect changing market places.

Specifically the Bill will make provision:

  • for a Business Growth Accelerator relief;
  • for three yearly revaluations - after the next revaluation on 1 April 2022;
  • for reforms to improve the appeals system and reduce speculative appeals;
  • for an increase in the information gathering powers of the Scottish Assessors through the creation of a new civil penalty with concomitant rights of appeal; and a widening of the category of persons an Assessor can approach for information;
  • for an increase in the information gathering powers of Local Authorities through the creation of a new civil penalty with concomitant rights of appeal;
  • for local authorities to initiate debt recovery at an earlier stage of the financial year;
  • for GAAR (general anti-avoidance regulation) as an additional tool that can be utilised in those cases where abuse cannot be tackled through refinement of existing legislation using existing powers;
  • for changes to charity rate relief - mainstream independent schools will no longer be eligible to apply for mandatory charitable rate relief, independent special schools and specialist independent music schools will not be affected by this change;
  • by way of an enabling power for the Scottish Ministers to issue statutory guidance to local authorities regarding the granting of sports club relief; and
  • the closing down of several tax avoidance tactics identified by the Barclay Review relating to non-domestic reliefs.

Barclay Recommendations that will not be covered by the forthcoming Bill, but had previously been included in the implementation plan:

  • An out-of-town levy to charge businesses based predominantly online or out-of-town a business rates supplement. The Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work, confirmed in the Scottish Budget that the Scottish Government would not be taking forward this recommendation; and
  • Proposal to impose a 10% supplementary charge on property that has been vacant for over 5 years will not be taken forward; proposal to restrict empty property relief for listed buildings to 2 years will be taken forward but the threshold will be 5 years and this can be dealt with by secondary legislation.
  • The proposal to increase the current 42 days rest period for empty property will be progressed and this can be dealt with by secondary legislation.

Current Status: Initiated by the Scottish Government. Answered by Kate Forbes on 22/02/2019
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