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Rates relief shake-up

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
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Rates relief shake-up

OWNERS of empty commercial premises could be hit heavily in the pocket by a shake-up of taxation rules.

Following a repeal of rates relief legislation by the Scottish Government, Dumfries and Galloway Council is revising its non-domestic rates (NDR) empty property relief policy.

Currently, hundreds of empty commercial properties, listed buildings, and pieces of empty land are subject to rates relief totalling nearly £1.3m.

This is because 100 percent rates relief is applied in most cases when there is no occupier of the buildings or land.

Owners of 94 empty business buildings in the region have been receiving the full discount for more than a year, while 12 have been paying no rates for more than five years.

However, Dumfries and Galloway Council officers are proposing that the full rates relief is scrapped from April 1 next year. Three options are laid out in a report, which will be discussed at the council’s communities committee on Tuesday.

These options are: sticking with the current arrangements, a complete removal of rates relief, or reducing the level of rates relief.

The latter option is being recommended by council officers – although councillors will make the final decision.

The council report states: “The third option provides a standard rate of relief for all empty premises from April 1, 2024. Empty relief would be available for a maximum period of one year from when the property was last occupied.

“The relief available would be as follows: 50 percent relief for first three months after rateable occupation ends, 10 percent relief for a further nine months after which no relief.

“As this would take effect from 1 April 2024, it would apply to those properties who have had 100 percent relief under the existing policy, therefore it is proposed that in these cases there would be a phasing in of the relief and the ‘clock be reset’ for these properties.

“They would be treated as empty from April 1, 2024 which would result in them being eligible for the 50 percent three months and 10 percent for nine months (provided they remained empty).

“This would allow additional time to adjust to the new policy.”

Non-domestic rates is a property-based tax for commercial premises, which is billed and collected by each council on behalf of the Scottish Government.

The money generated by non-domestic rates nationally equates to 22 percent of Scottish Government revenue funding. In the last financial year this was £27.7m.

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