Business rates were reintroduced for sporting rights in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016. Last summer the Assessors circulated questionnaires to gather evidence of current rents for sporting rights and this information was used as a basis for the first phase of some 10,700 valuations issued in October. There are two further phases to come and it is thought that the total number of assessments could exceed 50,000 if all landholdings are included. The resultant valuations contain many apparent anomalies, some of which are potentially devastating for those businesses concerned, and the high values attributed to forestry land, much of which is not capable of being used for deer stalking, are a particular issue. In short, the reintroduction of sporting rates appears to be in serious disarray and a more refined approach which takes account of actual circumstances is clearly required.
Our advice to members who feel their valuation is incorrect is to appeal within the six-month time limit. Payment of current valuations is required by law but can eventually be recovered in whole or in part in the event of a successful appeal.
Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) has been at the forefront of lobbying on sporting rates. Most recently, Scottish Government has issued Local Authorities with non-statutory guidance on the application of non-domestic rates reliefs and in particular applying Unoccupied Property Relief to sporting rates. This will benefit many who do not qualify for relief through the Small Business Bonus. The wording in the guidance is as follows:
A shooting right is entered on the roll but no commercial shooting/stalking takes place and the occupier applies for relief.
SLE has also issued a briefing note to Local Authorities to provide background and justification for applying the relief as widely as possible. More information on the SLE website.