The Scottish Government is planning to introduce the Non Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish parliament in the coming weeks, and it will have implications for owners and occupiers of commercial premises.
Specifically, the bill will make provision for:-
- A restriction on empty property relief on listed buildings to 2 years. Secondary legislation will follow in due course to allow this threshold to be extended to 5 years in due course;
- An increase in the frequency of rates revaluations from every 5 years to every 3 years, beginning with the next revaluation on 1 April 2022;
- Revaluation will be based on the property’s rateable value one year before the revaluation takes effect, rather than 2 years as at present;
- Reforms to improve the appeals system and reduce speculative appeals by improving the administration of the system;
- New informationgathering powers for the Scottish Assessors resulting in an improvement in the quality of information available;
- Powers that allow local authorities to initiate debt recovery at an earlier stage;
- 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);
- For a Business Growth Accelerator relief: This will provide certainty to businesses exempting commercial properties from business rates until one year after the property is occupied by its first tenant. The Scottish government introduced this scheme on 1 April 2018 by way of secondary legislation, and last year sought views on whether the scheme should be renewed annually or made permanent. This means that if your premises is a new build then you won’t have to pay business rates until 12 months after the building was completed. Business rates also don’t have to be paid on new build premises until they are occupied meaning that the first tenant will also qualify for business growth accelerator relief for 12 months.
However it has been widely publicised that the Scottish government has dropped plans to impose a 10% surcharge / supplementary charge on business rates charged on long-term vacant properties (over 5 years), following advice from the advisory group set up to help implement the proposal. In a report, it said that the proposed surcharge "would simply further penalise ratepayers holding on to currently unproductive properties"; rather than encouraging properties back into productive use.
It will be interesting to see what the Scottish parliament will make of the bill and how this will effect commercial property owners and occupiers in Scotland in the future.
Nicola McCafferty is a specialist Commercial Property solicitor. We are always delighted to talk without obligation about whether we might meet your needs. Call Nicola on 01382 229111 or email email@example.com