Landowners of sporting estates are being urged to be savvy and make sure they don’t pay unnecessary fees amid concerns surrounding the revaluation of sporting rates.
Sporting rates were first introduced in 1854 under the Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act and require land to be included in the Valuation Roll.
Shootings and deer forests were excluded from paying the tax, but with the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016, hundreds of landowners have now been compelled to provide their details for the Valuation Roll – with many receiving the accompanying rates demand.
However, Malcom Taylor, a land management partner at Bell Ingram, said that as the vast majority of estates will fall below the £15,000 threshold and therefore qualify for Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR), owners and occupiers need to ensure they do not end up paying rates they don’t have to.
Malcolm said: ‘What many people are forgetting is that depending on other rated assets, the majority of shooting rights will fall below the £15,000 rate where 100 per cent SBRR is available. It pays to read the small print.
‘The SBRR is available to everybody but you need to apply for it. On the reverse of the rates notice, there is a table headed ‘enquiries’, but it does not specifically say that the relief is available or how to apply for it.
‘I am starting to receive many calls and inquiries as the notices and bills start to arrive or their significance starts to become apparent.’
Malcolm also believes there is a risk the Government – in reaction to the fact that the expected levels of rates income from the inclusion of the sporting sector will not be realised – will withdraw SBRR from sporting estates.
He continued: ‘It is difficult to see what has changed since sporting rates were suspended in 1994 when the system cost more to administer than it generated.
‘Although there will be hundreds of new entries in the Valuation Roll, very few properties will in fact have to pay sporting rates.
‘This is not what the Scottish Government planned and it is inevitable that at some point the rate relief will be withdrawn.
‘It would seem extremely prudent to appeal the rateable value in anticipation for the day when the relief is withdrawn. If there are other rateable subjects on a property the rates due are cumulative, so it is essential to examine Rateable Value for each property and appeal the decision, as appropriate.
‘But any appeal must be done promptly as strict deadlines are expected to follow. So the best advice is to seek professional advice as early as possible.’