• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Scottish businesses have a significantly poorer deal over rates

FEW people are ever truly enthusiastic about the prospect of paying taxes and business (or non-domestic) rates.

This tax has always provoked strong views and its importance has been magnified in the past 15 years since devolution as it is by far the most significant revenue raising tool currently at the Scottish Government's disposal.

Unlike other taxes, it always seems to favour the Government rather than businesses, since the periodic revaluations enable the politicians to tweak the poundage rate (multiplier) to ensure that the Government doesn't surrender revenue even if rateable values fall.

In the early years of devolution, this multiplier was set at a higher rate in Scotland than in England before being gradually returned to parity by 2007, since when the SNP Scottish Government have pursued a policy of shadowing the English rate. So far, so good, and with the introduction of the Small Business Bonus Scheme which exempts many smaller businesses from rates altogether, it all looks good for Scottish businesses.

Or is it? The Scottish Government's decision to abandon transitional relief in 2010, which would have protected many businesses from sharp increases in rates bills as a result of revaluation, hit many businesses hard. Then came the introduction of the so called 'Public Health Levy' in 2012, which added a significant additional burden to the rates bills of many larger retailers.

This was followed in 2013 by a massive reduction in the rates relief available to the owners of empty business properties. Each of these decisions has resulted in Scottish businesses paying more rates.

Now a group of property experts has highlighted to the Scottish Government the implications of a recent court decision which has the effect of limiting the circumstances under which businesses can appeal their rates bills as a result of a "material change in circumstances".

These industry experts are concerned that this case will result in Scottish businesses receiving a significantly worse deal on business rates than their counterparts in England. This is an extremely worrying possibility.

The Scottish Government is rightly proud of its Small Business Bonus Scheme but it is no longer enough to use this as a defence to the erosion of reliefs and appeal prospects that has resulted in the cost of non-domestic rates to businesses rising by almost a third since 2010.

The case for the reform of business rates in Scotland is growing ever more compelling.

Liz Cameron is chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce

Contextual targeting label: 
Business

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

245778