Busi­ness chiefs call for ‘un­pre­dictable’ out-of-town busi­ness tax to be scrapped

CBI Scot­land, Scotch Whisky As­so­ci­a­tion and Scot­tish Re­tail Con­sor­tium among more than 30 groups to crit­i­cise the plans

The Scotsman - - News Digest - By TOM PETERKIN

More than 30 lead­ing busi­ness groups in­clud­ing the CBI and the Scotch Whisky As­so­ci­a­tion have ex­pressed con­cern about pro­pos­als to in­tro­duce a new lo­cal author­ity rates levy on out-of-town busi­nesses.

The groups have made their reser­va­tions known in their re­sponses to a Scot­tish Govern­ment con­sul­ta­tion on the con­tro­ver­sial pro­pos­als.

The Bar­clay Re­view of busi­ness rates com­mis­sioned by Scot­tish min­is­ters in­cluded plans for a num­ber of pilot coun­cils to be given the power to in­crease rates paid by “out of town” and “pre­dom­i­nantly on­line” busi­nesses.

The pro­posal was put for­ward in an at­tempt to make it more at­trac­tive to do busi­ness in towns and re­gen­er­ate town cen­tres.

But pre­lim­i­nary anal­y­sis of con­sul­ta­tion re­sponses by the Scot­tish Re­tail Con­sor­tium (SRC) has found 31 busi­ness or­gan­i­sa­tions have ex­pressed reser­va­tions about the plan. They in­clude CBI Scot­land, the Scotch Whisky As­so­ci­a­tion, the Food and Drink Fed­er­a­tion and Scot­tish En­gi­neer­ing.

The SRC has re­newed its calls for Holy­rood fi­nance sec­re­tary Derek Mackay to ditch the pro­posal.

CBI Scot­land warned: “An ad­di­tional levy would in short cre­ate more com­plex­ity, un­pre­dictabil­ity and cost to a wide range of busi­nesses that are al­ready work­ing hard to con­trib­ute to their lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.”

The Fed­er­a­tion of Small Busi­nesses said a new levy “could cre­ate lo­cal di­vi­sions”.

And the Scot­tish Cham­bers of Com­merce said the pro­posed scheme risked “un­fairly pun­ish­ing those who have opted for spe­cific busi­ness mod­els”.

The Scotch Whisky As­so­ci­a­tion said it was “not in favour of an out-of-town ad­di­tional levy”. “It could dis­ad­van­tage sites that are based in ru­ral lo­ca­tions or out-of-town cen­tres,” the as­so­ci­a­tion said in its sub­mis­sion.

Scot­tish En­gi­neer­ing added it was “ex­tremely con­cerned over the pro­posal to em­power all lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to levy ad­di­tional busi­ness rates sur­charges on out-of-town busi­nesses and we urge the govern­ment not to pro­ceed with this as­pect of the over­all pro­pos­als”.

SRC direc­tor David Lons­dale said: “A for­mi­da­ble and broad cross-sec­tion of Scot­tish busi­ness and in­dus­try are voic­ing se­ri­ous doubts over the wis­dom of pro­gress­ing with this new tax, which will sim­ply in­tro­duce fur­ther com­plex­ity and cost into the busi­ness rates sys­tem.

“The ques­tions around the scheme, who would be li­able, what the tax rate would be, how long it would ap­ply for and where the rev­enues would go have mounted as busi­ness groups from across Scot­land’s econ­omy have con­sid­ered the govern­ment’s pro­posed new tax.”

A Scot­tish Govern­ment spokesper­son said: “The Bar­clay Re­view was es­tab­lished to re­view the cur­rent non­do­mes­tic rates sys­tem to sup­port growth, im­prove ad­min­is­tra­tio­nand­in­crease­fair­ness. The Scot­tish Govern­ment is com­mit­ted to de­liv­er­ing the Bar­clay Re­view as part of our com­mit­ment to main­tain­ing a com­pet­i­tive non-do­mes­tic rates regime for busi­nesses in Scot­land and we pro­vide the most com­pet­i­tive sys­tem of rates re­lief in the UK.

“The con­sul­ta­tion con­cluded on 17 Septem­ber and we are cur­rently analysing the re­sponses to in­form the de­liv­ery of these re­forms.”

“An ad­di­tional levy would in short cre­ate more com­plex­ity, un­pre­dictabil­ity and cost to a wide range of busi­nesses that are al­ready work­ing hard”

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