Below is an summary of the outcomes of the Barclay Review into Scottish Business Rates:

The Barclay Review on Non-Domestic Business Rates in Scotland

Recommendations Affecting Garden Centres

This Review was set up by the Scottish Government in 2016 with the remit to enhance and reform the business rates system in order to assist economic development while ensuring a neutral effect on income raised from business rates.

The expectations of the business community were that they would propose a radical reform of the existing system which would be simpler to understand and implement but avoid excessive increases in rateable value and rates paid. While the recommendation to remove charitable relief for the first time from private schools and public leisure facilities was not expected, other recommendations do not appear to be other than tinkering with the existing rating system.

Of the thirty recommendations made by the Review, the Scottish Government has confirmed in Parliament that they will accept most of the Barclay Review recommendations. The loss of charitable relief from private schools and public leisure centres will be deferred pending further consultation.

Changes which could affect or be beneficial to the Garden Centre Industry are: -

  1. When there is a material change to a garden centre increasing its value, it is proposed that there should be a 12-month delay before the increase in value is added to the valuation roll. This would also apply to a new-build garden centre.
  2. Revaluation should take place every 3 years from 2022 based on a tone date one year prior to 1st April. The Government has accepted this recommendation.
  3. The large business supplement should be reduced in line with England. On rateable values over £51,000 the supplement is 2.6p in the £ while in England it is only 1.3p. This would marginally reduce the rate payment but the Scottish Government has already made it clear this will not be considered until 2020 subject to finance being available.
  4. It is suggested that the Small Business Bonus Scheme should be examined. At the moment small garden centres with a rateable value up to £15,000 receive 100% relief or 25% if the rateable value is no more than £18,000. The continuation of this relief in its current form could be in jeopardy before 2022.
  5. There are various recommendations intended to improve the transparency and general understanding of the rating system including a) a road map to explain changes and to consult on these prior to implementation; b) clearer information made available to ratepayers; c) a full list of properties receiving rate relief; d) public participation in identifying properties which should be subject to rates; e) standardised rate billing throughout Scotland; f) ratepayers encouraged to sign up for online  billing; g)refunds made more quickly.
  6. Assessors encouraged to provide more transparency and a consistency of valuation approach to be enforced, if necessary, by a statutory body accountable to the Scottish Government. Assessors are to provide an Implementation Plan to the Cabinet Minister by the end of September indicating how this will be achieved.
  7. There should be a reform of the appeal system to reduce the volume of appeals, a greater openness and balance.
  8. It is recommended, as a means of encouraging the re-use of empty property, that relief be restricted on listed buildings to a maximum of 2 years, liability on other properties, empty for long periods, duly increased. This measure is likely to have little impact on the garden centre industry.
  9. It is proposed large-sale commercial processing on horticultural or agricultural land should pay the same level of rates as a similar activity elsewhere so as to ensure fairness. With some exceptions currently being challenged, nursery operations are treated as agricultural and exempt from valuation. The Scottish Government has not accepted the inclusion of agricultural or horticultural subjects in the Valuation Roll.

Conclusion

In the final analysis, the Review does not propose any fundamental changes to the existing rating system but rather enforces its continuation. A number of proposed measures are helpful such as a greater openness in valuation issues by Assessors. There is to be no reduction in the Large Business Supplement until 2021 at the earliest. This denies the prospect of harmonisation with England.

The thinking is that the introduction of Revaluation every 3 years may reduce the impact of rate rises but in a free market economy this cannot be guaranteed. It will, of course, increase administration both for assessors, finance departments and, most importantly, ratepayers.

The threat of business rates on horticultural activities has been averted by the Scottish Government’s decision not to implement this recommendation. This is consistent with announcements of the UK Government.

With a narrow remit given to the Barclay Review and the need for its recommendations to be financially neutral, in essence the existing rating system remains largely unchanged. Only when the proposals are implemented will it be established whether or not the system has, indeed, been improved.

Provided by Allan M. McLaren MRICS, IRRV(Hons)

HTA Rating Adviser 

ALLAN MCLAREN,CHARTERED SURVEYORS

in association with GERALD EVE LLP

Picture credit: Image © Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/Fol/ScottishParliamentLicence20160404.pdf

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