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05/02/20 18:39

Certainty for Scottish businesses

Rates relief will be retained.

Tens of thousands of businesses across Scotland will continue to benefit from vital business rates relief put in place by the Scottish Government.

MSPs have voted to support the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill at stage three, which will now be translated into legislation.

The bill will implement the changes to business rates recommended by the independent Barclay Review, such as three year revaluations and improved anti-avoidance and debt recovery powers for councils.

The vote removed a stage two amendment to devolve business rates to councils and abolish almost £300 million of rates relief.

Last week Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes issued an open letter to all MSPs highlighting the potentially damaging impact of this, once again setting out the Scottish Government’s unequivocal backing for the current uniform business rate.

Ms Forbes said:

“The majority of these reforms have been widely welcomed by businesses and councils alike. They will modernise the system, tackle tax avoidance and address long term frustrations with the appeals system as well as protecting vital business rates relief offered by the Scottish Government.

“This Non-Domestic Rates Bill is too important to play games with and I’m pleased Parliament has supported this Bill and returned it to its original purpose of implementing the Barclay Review of Non-Domestic Rates.”  

Background:

In January Ms Forbes replied to a letter from the Scottish business community highlighting the Scottish Government’s support for maintaining the uniform business rate.

The Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill delivers the primary legislation necessary to deliver the final recommendations of the Barclay Review of Non-Domestic Rates. It also devolves Empty Property Relief to local authorities in time for the next revaluation in 2022.

Joint work with COSLA to consider the implications of devolving rates will be taken forward at pace with in the context of the fiscal framework.

The Bill delivers measures to support growth, improve administration and increase fairness including:

  • three-year revaluations
  • a one year tone date to ensure rateable values are more up to date and accurate
  • systemic reforms to the appeals system
  • greater information gathering powers for assessors and councils
  • provides stronger anti-avoidance powers to councils
  • earlier debt recovery powers for councils
  • removing the eligibility for charitable relief from mainstream independent schools