The Scot-Govt’s ‘review’ of business rates – set up in a political panic to quell deep unrest among small businesses in general – and the Scottish small hydro-energy sector – in particular – has been published.
Its remit was “To make recommendations that seek to enhance and reform the non-domestic rates (also sometimes referred to as business rates) system in Scotland to better support business growth and long term investment and reflect changing marketplaces, whilst still retaining the same level of income to deliver local services upon which businesses rely.”
The Barclay Review panel was expressly not asked to influence the 2017 revaluation, nor to look at wider taxation or business policies, and it also had to consider whether measures it would recommend would fall within Holyrood’s devolved powers from Westminster.
See also: –
Scot-Govt. faces Scottish renewable energy crisis as business rates ‘fiasco’ threatens to sink small-hydro power in Scotland
A spokesman for Scottish Renewables commented: “Research earlier this year found some small-scale renewable energy schemes, particularly in the hydropower wind and solar sectors, faced rates increases of up to 650%: levels which could easily push companies out of business.
“We are therefore pleased to see the Barclay review recommend significant reform, including a change to conduct revaluations every three years and a separate review of plant and machinery regulations which can capture the changes which have taken place in renewables since the last revaluation a decade ago.
“These changes will help futureproof the rates system to allow for further technological development in future.
Meanwhile, construction work has begun on a new community hydro power scheme in Arrochar which aims to raise up to £50,000 for community projects in selling electricity to the national grid.
The Arrochar Community Hydro Scheme is a collaboration between local landowner Luss Estates, community energy specialists Energy4All, Local Energy Scotland and two local development trusts, located in Arrochar and Tarbet and in Luss and Arden.
The 30 recommendations in the Barclay Review are –
The full report can be viewed at http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/08/3435
- A Business Growth Accelerator – to boost business growth, a 12 month delay should be introduced before rates are increased when an existing property is expanded or improved and also before rates apply to a new build property.
- There should be three yearly revaluations from 2022 with valuations based on market conditions on a date one year prior (the ‘Tone date’).
- The large business supplement should be reduced.
- A new relief for day nurseries should be introduced to support childcare provision.
- Town Centres should be supported by expanding Fresh Start relief.
- There should be a separate review of Plant and Machinery valuations with particular focus on renewable energy sector valuations and statutory improvements to property including sprinkler systems.
- The effectiveness of the Small Business Bonus Scheme should be evaluated.
- The Scottish Government should provide a ‘road map’ to explain changes to the rating system and should consult whenever possible on those changes, prior to implementation.
- There should be better information on rates made available to ratepayers – co-ordinated by Scottish Government.
- A full list of recipients of rates relief should be published to improve transparency.
- A “rateable value finder” product should be used – to identify properties that are not currently on the valuation roll, so as to share the burden of rates more fairly.
- Assessors should provide more transparency and consistency of approach. If this is not achieved voluntarily, a new Scotland wide Statutory Body should be created which would be accountable to Ministers.
- The current criminal penalty for non‑provision of information to Assessors should become a civil penalty and Assessors should be able to collect information from a wider range of bodies.
- Standardised rates bills should be introduced across Scotland.
- Ratepayers should be incentivised to sign up for online billing where available except in exceptional circumstances.
- A new civil penalty for non-provision of information to councils by ratepayers should be created.
- Councils should refund overpayments to ratepayers more quickly.
- Councils should be able to initiate debt recovery at an earlier stage.
- Reform of the appeals system is needed to modernise the approach, reduce appeal volume and ensure greater transparency and fairness.
- A General Anti-Avoidance Rule should be created to reduce avoidance and make it harder for loopholes to be exploited in future.
- To counter a known avoidance tactic, the current 42 days reset period for empty property should be increased to 6 months in any financial year.
- To counter a known avoidance tactic for second homes, owners or occupiers of self-catering properties must prove an intention let for
- 140 days in the year and evidence of actual letting for 70 days.
- The Scottish Government should be responsible for checking rates relief awarded, to ensure compliance with legislation.
- Charity relief should be reformed/restricted for a small number of recipients.
- To focus relief on economically active properties, only properties in active occupation should be entitled.
- To encourage bringing empty property back into economic use, relief should be reformed to restrict relief for listed buildings to a maximum of two years and the rates liability for property that has been empty for significant periods should be increased.
- Sports club relief should be reviewed to ensure it supports affordable community-based facilities, rather than members clubs with significant assets which do not require relief.
- All property should be entered on the valuation roll (except public infrastructure such as roads, bridges, sewers or domestic use) and current exemptions should be replaced by a 100% relief to improve transparency.
- Large scale commercial processing on agricultural land should pay the same level of rates as similar activity elsewhere so as to ensure fairness.
- Commercial activity on current exempt parks and Local Authority (council) land vested in recreation should pay the same level of rates as similar activity elsewhere so as to ensure fairness.
23 Aug 2017