Holiday home own­ers ‘avoid coun­cil tax as self-cater­ing busi­nesses’

Caernarfon Herald - - PUZZLES -

OWN­ERS of holiday homes in Gwynedd are us­ing a le­gal loop­hole to avoid pay­ing coun­cil tax, a new re­port has found.

In 2016, the au­thor­ity backed plans for a 50% rise in the amount of coun­cil tax paid by own­ers of holiday and long term empty prop­er­ties in a bid to halt their in­crease in pop­u­lar­ity.

Fig­ures re­leased by Stats Wales last year showed there were 5,626 sec­ond homes in Gwynedd – more than dou­ble the num­ber in Pem­brokeshire (2,801) and dwarf­ing the fig­ures for Conwy (1,473) and An­gle­sey (1,471).

But a new re­port pub­lished this week re­vealed Gwynedd Coun­cil could be miss­ing out on much needed rev­enue as holiday own­ers ex­ploit a le­gal loop­hole to avoid pay­ing any coun­cil tax at all.

The num­ber of res­i­dents us­ing this loop­hole has not been re­vealed, but any holiday homes reg­is­tered as busi­nesses should the­o­ret­i­cally pay busi­ness rates, but do not have to pay coun­cil tax as long as long as their holiday home is avail­able to let for 140 days a year.

Af­ter al­low­ing for ex­cep­tions, and changes in sta­tus or cir­cum­stances, coun­cil of­fi­cers es­ti­mated that an ad­di­tional rev­enue of £1.9m from sec­ond/holiday homes and a fur­ther £800,000 from long term empty prop­er­ties would be­come avail­able.

This comes at a time when Gwynedd coun­cil faces cuts worth £17.5m over the next three years.

But a re­port au­thored by the fi­nance port­fo­lio holder, Cllr Pere­dur Jenk­ins, rec­om­mends the au­thor­ity should lobby the Welsh Gov­ern­ment to close the loop­hole which sees po­ten­tial funds di­verted from Wales to the UK trea­sury.

“We are aware that some sec- Pic­tures: ARWYN ROBERTS ond home own­ers man­age to avoid pay­ing coun­cil tax by trans­fer­ring the prop­erty to self-cater­ing ‘busi­nesses’, but then re­ceive small busi­ness rate re­lief,” the re­port notes.

“This means that there is con­sid­er­able loss to the pub­lic purse in Wales, at a time when pub­lic fund­ing is scarce.

“We have been dis­cussing the mat­ter on a national level with pub­lic bod­ies and other lo­cal author­i­ties, and we will con­tinue to keep an eye on the sit­u­a­tion in fu­ture.

“Other meth­ods of ad­dress­ing the mat­ter and equip­ping our Assem­bly rep­re­sen­ta­tives to pur­sue the mat­ter should be con­sid­ered.”

The prob­lem in not unique to Gwynedd, with the 2011 UK cen­sus show­ing more than 165,000 Brits have a sec­ond home for hol­i­days.

In Jan­uary, St Ives MP An­drew Ge­orge called for re­form af­ter talk­ing of “in­dus­trial scale tax avoid­ance” and “pref­er­en­tial elec­toral in­flu­ence” by sec­ond home own­ers in Corn­wall.

In Fe­bru­ary, in re­sponse to the con­cerns Un­der-Sec­re­tary of State for Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment, Rishi Su­nak, ac­knowl­edged there was “scope for am­bi­gu­ity” and said the sit­u­a­tion was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

A con­voy of clas­sic Jaguar cars trav­elled through North Wales as the group headed to the third stage of their 4,000 mile event.The roar of en­gines echoed through­out Port­meirion as a num­ber of the clas­sic race cars ar­rived in the vil­lage as part of a round-Britain coastal drive (RBCD).The Ital­ianate hotspot was the sec­ond stop on the map for the scores of E-Type sports cars as they travel around the sea­side roads of the UK.The event was flagged away from its start­ing point at Pen­dine Sands, Car­marthen­shire, last Mon­day by land speed record-breaker Don Wales.The vin­tage mo­tors landed in Gwynedd on Tues­day, driv­ing in con­voy as spec­ta­tors looked on.The cars then left to travel the 150 miles to the next des­ti­na­tion on the tour – Lytham St Annes in Lan­cashire.The 19-stage tour be­gan in 2016 to raise money for lead­ing men’s char­ity Prostate Can­cer UK.Some 200 Jaguar E-Types par­tic­i­pated in the event, which raised £62,000 for the char­ity, smash­ing the £50,000 tar­get.This year’s RBCD is ex­pected to add an­other £70,000 to the char­ity fund.Speak­ing at the start­ing line, Don Wales said: “I am de­lighted to be part of this fab­u­lous event and hon­oured to be flag­ging-off the en­trants from Pen­dine Sands, where my grand­fa­ther set his first World Land Speed Record.“I was re­cently di­ag­nosed with prostate can­cer and have now been suc­cess­fully treated.“We need to get more men talk­ing about this hor­ri­ble dis­ease.“Events like this are vi­tal as they help to raise aware­ness and valu­able funds to stop prostate can­cer be­ing a killer.” ● Jaguar round Britain coastal drive 2018 leav­ing Port­meirion

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