Call for Evidence on the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill

The Local Government and Communities Committee would like to hear your views on the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill.

The Bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament on 25 March 2019 by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work. It is a Scottish Government Bill. The Bill and accompanying documents can be found here.

The Bill delivers most of the recommendations of the Barclay Review of non-domestic rates that were considered to require primary legislation. It makes a number of changes in different areas, as outlined further below. The Scottish Government Policy Memorandum accompanying the Bill states (at paragraph 5) that its main policy objectives are to:

  • Deliver a non-domestic rates system designed to better support business growth and long-term investment and reflect changing marketplaces;
  • Improve ratepayers’ experience of the ratings system and administration of the system; and
  • Increase fairness and ensure a level playing field amongst ratepayers by reforming rate reliefs and tackling known avoidance measures.

The Committee welcomes answers to the following questions (feel free to answer as many or as few as you wish).

Overall programme of NDR Reform and the Barclay Review

The Committee welcomes views on:

1. The Scottish Government’s overall programme of Non-Domestic Rates reform, and how the Bill fits into this.

2. How the Government has responded to the Barclay review, in particular on those recommendations it has rejected in full or part.

Specific proposals in the Bill

The Committee welcomes views on:

3. Section 2 of the Bill which provides that revaluation of properties subject to non-domestic rates would be carried out every 3 years rather than every 5 years.

4. Section 3 of the Bill, which (together with section 9) makes provision in relation to new or improved properties. These delay the point at which non-domestic rates are increased because a property has been expanded or improved, or at which a new build property begins to incur liability to non-domestic rates. The underlying aim is to incentivise development and investment in business properties.

5. Section 4, which aims to increase the degree to which parks are subject to non-domestic rates, in recognition of the commercial activities that take place in some parks (eg the running of a café).

6. Section 5, intended as a measure to address a perceived “loophole” that enables owners of holiday homes to avoid both council tax and non-domestic rates by making it more difficult to enter a home on the roll (and, through this, to then claim relief under the small business bonus scheme).

7. Sections 6-9, which aim to reduce the current high rate of valuation appeals, which the Scottish Government perceives as speculative. (Increasing the frequency of ratings revaluations in section 2 is also seen as a component of this reform.)

8. Section 10, which removes eligibility to claim charitable relief from non-domestic rates from mainstream independent schools, and section 11 which gives the Scottish Ministers the power to issue guidance to local authorities on the appropriate way to use their powers to grant sports club relief.

9. Section 12, which aims to address what the Scottish Government describes as a known tax avoidance tactic concerning unoccupied or under-used properties.

10. Section 13, which will enable councils to initiate debt recovery proceedings for unpaid rates sooner.

11. Sections 14, 18, 19 and 22, which together aim to strengthen the power of assessors to obtain the information they need to carry out their role, and sections 15, 16, 17, 20, 21 and 22 which give local authorities increased powers to obtain information from ratepayers, in order to ensure that the information they have is accurate, and to reduce the risk of fraud.

12. Part 4 of the Bill, which give the Scottish Ministers the power to make anti-avoidance regulations to prevent ratepayers gaining an advantage from avoidance arrangements that are considered artificial, and sets out definitions of “advantage” and “artificial”.

Other

13. Do you have any other comments about the Bill? In particular, is there anything not in the Bill concerning non-domestic rates that should be in the Bill?

The call for written views will close on Thursday 30 May 2019.

Before making a submission, please read our privacy notice here about submitting your views to a Committee. If you are under 12 years old, please refer to the privacy notice here. These tell you about how we process your personal data.

Please use the template provided to format your submission. This includes the Data Protection Form. Fill this out and return it with your submission. If you are under twelve years of age we will need the consent of your parent or guardian. Please use this form.

We welcome written views in English, Gaelic, Scots or any other language. Due to the time required to process and analyse evidence, late submissions will only be accepted with the agreement of the Committee.

Written responses should be sent electronically, in the above template format to the following address. Ideally they should be no more than four sides of A4.

[email protected] 

If you cannot submit electronically you may send in a hard copy written submission. If you are sending in a hard copy submission please print off and include a copy of the Data Protection Form.  Please send them to:

Local Government and Communities Committee Clerk
Room T3.60
Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh
EH99 1SP

If you have any further questions regarding the Committee’s scrutiny of this topic, please contact the Committee clerking team at the above e-mail address or call 0131 348 5232.

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