The committee considering the reintroduction of sporting rates in Scotland has highlighted ‘significant concerns’ with the proposals.
The Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment (RACCE) committee has reflected BASC’s oral and written evidence in its Stage One Report on the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill.
Shoots and deer forests in Scotland were exempted from non-domestic business rates in 1995 largely due to collection costs outweighing revenue. However, there are now proposals to reintroduce the tax amid claims it will raise £4 million per year.
BASC responded to the threat of the controversial levy being reintroduced by raising its concerns with RACCE.
Dr Colin Shedden, BASC’s Scotland director, said: “RACCE has taken on board much of the evidence that we, and others, presented.
“We highlighted the fact that reintroducing a tax on sporting businesses, of which 88 per cent either break-even or run at a loss, would be unfair and inconsistent with other land-based businesses that remain exempt from non-domestic rates.
“It could affect rural employment, local economies and communities, as well as conservation. In fact, the report goes on to state that the Bill ‘lacks clarity about the purpose, delivery, impacts and likely outcome of these proposals’.
“The committee has also asked government to set out a clear evidence-based rationale for taxing shoots while continuing to exempt other rural businesses, such as farming, forestry and aquaculture.”
Alan Balfour, chairman of BASC’s Scottish committee, said: “One of the most important points is that the Scottish Assessors Association has estimated that they would have to value between 52,000 and 55,000 new businesses – all land that has the potential to attract revenue as a let shoot. This was described as ‘challenging’.
“It should be remembered that before 1995 all land, whether shot over or not, was taxed under sporting rates. This is what the Bill proposes to be reinstated so it is encouraging that our input has led to this influential committee stating that ‘the case for change has not yet been made’.”
BASC’s paper on the unintended consequences of reintroducing sporting rates can be found here: http://basc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2015/06/Land-Reform-Scotland-Bill-unintended-consquences.pdf