Scotland launches two consultations on business rate reforms

Scotland has launched two live consultations over proposed changes to its business rates’ appeals system.

The consultation relating to the Valuation Appeal Committee and the new Scottish Tribunal system, closes on 28 November. You can click here for more information.

The consultation for reforming the non-domestic rates system runs a little longer and closes on December 15. Click here for the details and opportunity to comment.

The consultation on draft regulations relates to the transfer of the functions of the Council Tax Reduction Review Panel and the functions of the Valuation Appeals Committees to the new Local Taxation Chamber in the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland, and transferring the relevant functions of the Lands Tribunal for Scotland to the Upper Tribunal for Scotland (in relation to valuation appeals).

The Scottish Governments claims The Tribunals (Scotland) Act 2014 (“the 2014 Act”) creates a new, simplified statutory framework for tribunals in Scotland, bringing existing tribunal jurisdictions together and providing a structure for new jurisdictions.  The 2014 Act includes powers allowing Ministers to make regulations to transfer the functions and members of a listed tribunal into the new structures. The 2014 Act created the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (“First-tier Tribunal”) and the Upper Tribunal for Scotland (“Upper Tribunal”), known collectively as the Scottish Tribunals.  The First-tier Tribunal is divided into chambers with regard to subject matter and other relevant factors.

The Council Tax Reduction Review Panel (CTRRP) was established to hear appeals against how a local authority has calculated someone’s level of Council Tax Reduction.  It provides an additional review function, beyond that provided by the relevant local authority, and safeguards an individual’s right to administrative justice in relation to the Council Tax Reduction scheme. The regulations are intended to list the CTRRP as a Tribunal in Schedule 1 of the 2014 Act, before transferring the functions of the CTRRP into the newly created Local Taxation Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal with appeals in future to go to the Upper Tribunal.

Valuation Appeals Committees (VACs) consider appeals relating to business rates and Council Tax matters.  In relation to Business Rates, Scottish assessors are responsible for maintaining the non-domestic valuation roll under section 1 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1975, and provide rateable values to the local authority.

VACs deal with appeals regarding entries made by assessors to the valuation roll (non-domestic properties), the valuation list (domestic properties), and some other council tax appeals (such as on calculation of council tax liability). They also hear appeals against the amount of a civil penalty imposed for failure to comply with assessor information notices, failure to comply with local authority information notices and failure to notify changes in circumstances to the local authority.  The regulations are intended to transfer the functions of the VACs into the newly created Local Taxation Chamber in the First-tier Tribunal, with appeals in future to go to the Upper Tribunal.
Lands Tribunal for Scotland (LTS) has a number of functions. The proposals outline the transference to the Scottish Tribunals of Appeals against rating assessments for non-domestic premises as set out in the Lands Tribunal Act 1949.  With regard to  business rates’ cases, the assessor or the appellant may apply to the VAC seeking referral of the appeal to the LTS.  If an application has been made and it appears to the VAC that the:

  • Facts of the case are complex or highly technical
  • Evidence to be given by expert opinion is complex or highly technical
  • Law applicable to the case is uncertain or difficult to apply
  • A case raises a fundamental or general issue likely to be used as a precedent in other cases
  • Lands and heritage to which the appeal relates are part of larger subjects situated in more than one valuation area and the valuation of those subjects is appealed in more than one such area.