Scottish Chambers calls for comprehensive reform of Scottish business rates
The Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) has proposed a comprehensive package of reforms aimed at delivering what it has described as “long overdue improvements” to Scotland’s business rates regime.
In its response to the Barclay Review of Business Rates, SCC has put forward a range of new initiatives, including a unified Assessor’s office for Scotland to reduce bureaucracy, comprehensive reform of the appeals system to ensure fairness, more frequent revaluations to make rates more responsive to changes in economic conditions and new reliefs designed to incentivise business creation and investment.
Brian Rogan, chair of the SCC Business Rates Advisory Group and head of rating in Scotland for CBRE Ltd, said: “Scotland’s system of business rates is no longer fit for purpose and is in need of urgent reform. The Scottish Government needs to act quickly before improvements to the rating system in other parts of the UK render Scotland uncompetitive, with our business rates becoming a growing disincentive to investment and growth. Doing nothing is no longer an option.
“That is why Scottish businesses welcome the independent review of business rates which the Scottish Government has initiated, and the Scottish Chambers of Commerce Network has now presented a comprehensive package of measures designed to make Scotland’s rating system fairer, more transparent, more efficient and more responsive to the needs of business.
“We want to see a rating system that responds effectively to changing economic conditions, that promotes the creation of new businesses and which rewards investment. We also propose a drastic reduction in bureaucracy through merging Scotland’s 14 regional rates Assessors into one national Scottish body, with a new consistent and fair appeals system that draws on expert and impartial advice.”
Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, added: “We would like to see those small businesses which currently benefit from full rates relief under the Scottish Government’s Small Business Bonus Scheme taken out of the rating system altogether, to enable more resources to be directed towards achieving a correct valuation and rates bills for those businesses which do pay rates.
“Business rates need to be seen as part of a wider spectrum of Scottish Government functions that play a part in enabling economic development in Scotland. These are economic levers which the Scottish Government very much has under its control and they also include the planning system, a range of other taxes, including Income Tax, the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, and, soon, Air Passenger Duty, as well as its wider powers on infrastructure, skills, and business support. If the Scottish Government makes use of these powers effectively, it can make a substantial contribution to making Scotland a more attractive and productive place to do business.
“We understand why the Scottish Government needs to maximise the revenues it raises from business rates and our proposals will help them to achieve that through delivering reform that will help to support and attract more new businesses to Scotland, and growing our economy. The solution is not to apply heavier taxes to the businesses we already have, but instead to apply fair taxes to a growing business base.”