Air Departure Tax
The Smith Commission report, published on 27 November 2014, recommended, amongst other things, further devolution over elements of taxation and public spending to the Scottish Parliament. Paragraph 86 of the report recommended that “the power to charge tax on air passengers leaving Scottish airports will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government will be free to make its own arrangements with regard to the design and collection of any replacement tax, including consideration of the environmental impact.”
This proposal, and others contained in that report, were taken forward in the Scotland Act 2016 which received Royal Assent on 23 March 2016. Following the commencement of section 17 of that Act on 23 May 2016, the Scottish Parliament obtained the power to legislate for a tax to replace Air Passenger Duty (APD) in Scotland.
Paragraph 26 of the agreement reached between the Scottish and UK Governments on the Scottish Government’s fiscal framework provides for the introduction of a Scottish APD replacement tax from April 2018.
Air Departure Tax (Scotland) Act
The Air Departure Tax (Scotland) Bill was formally introduced before the Scottish Parliament on 19 December 2016, and Parliament approved the Bill on 20 June 2017. The Bill can be accessed at: www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/102778.aspx.
Royal Assent was received on 25 July 2017 and the Air Departure Tax (Scotland) Act 2017 has been published on www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2017/2/introduction/enacted.
The Act makes provision for Air Departure Tax (ADT), a tax to be charged on the carriage of chargeable passengers on chargeable aircraft by air from airports in Scotland. Revenue Scotland, Scotland’s tax authority for devolved taxes, will be responsible for collecting and managing ADT.
Scottish Government policy on ADT
The Scottish Government has set a clear aim to reduce the overall burden of ADT by 50% and abolish the tax when resources allow. The Government believes that these plans will boost Scotland‘s air connectivity and economic competitiveness, encouraging the establishment of new routes which would enhance business connectivity and inbound tourism and help generate sustainable growth. Internationalisation is one of the four priorities for sustainable growth which underpins Scotland’s Economic Strategy.
The introduction of Air Departure Tax in Scotland will be deferred until the issues raised in relation to the exemption for flights departing from the Highlands and Islands have been resolved to ensure that devolved powers are not compromised. The Scottish Government and UK Government will work closely in order to achieve this as early as possible. The UK Government will maintain the application of Air Passenger Duty in Scotland in the interim.
The Scottish Government carried out a first phase of two separate public consultations on a Scottish APD replacement tax between 14 March and 3 June 2016:
‘A consultation on a Scottish replacement to APD’ – this consultation sought views on how an APD replacement tax in Scotland should be structured and operated in order to help generate sustainable growth through improving Scotland’s international air connectivity;
‘A Scottish replacement to APD: Strategic Environmental Assessment Screening and Scoping Report’ – this consultation sought views on the initial findings and proposed scope and methodology of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) that the Scottish Government is undertaking, in recognition of the important environmental issues that need to be considered.
The analysis and responses received to both of these consultations can be found on the Scottish Government’s Citizen Space online consultation platform.
A second phase of two separate public consultations was undertaken between 26 June and 15 September 2017 in compliance with the requirements of the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005, which requires that a SEA be carried out where a policy plan or programme is likely to have a significant environmental impact:
Consultation One: On the Scottish Government’s policy for an overall 50% ADT reduction by the end of the current session of the Scottish Parliament;
Consultation Two: On the assessment of the likely significant environmental impacts from the overall 50% ADT reduction policy (SEA Environmental Report). Alongside this the Government published an updated greenhouse gas emissions impact assessment of the overall 50% ADT reduction plan.
The consultations can be viewed at:
and the analysis of the responses to these consultations is here:
During the passage of the Air Departure Tax Bill, the Scottish Government committed to conducting and publishing a range of assessments on ADT.
Transport Scotland commissioned Peter Brett Associates and Northpoint Aviation to undertake an independent economic assessment of the 50% reduction policy. The assessment explores the potential economic impacts under different scenarios for reducing the tax burden by 50%. The report also includes consideration of a design for a robust monitoring and evaluation framework so that this can be put in place for assessing the economic, environmental and social impacts of ADT in the future. The report can be found here:
The Government has also commissioned an assessment of the potential noise impact resulting from the plans for a 50% reduction in ADT. Aecom was appointed to conduct the assessment. Their analysis builds out from the scenarios that were modelled in the economic report, to illustrate their noise impacts. The report will be published soon.
These reports will be used to help inform decisions on the final tax bands and tax rate amounts for ADT that will be set in secondary legislation and laid before the Scottish Parliament.
Scottish Government ADT stakeholder forum
The Scottish Government established an ADT stakeholder forum (previously Scottish APD stakeholder forum) on 6 August 2015 to help inform the development of policy and legislative proposals for an APD replacement tax in Scotland.
Membership of the stakeholder forum is formed from a broad range of sectors including airlines, airports, travel organisations, business representatives, tax accountancy and legal professional bodies and environmental organisations.
Papers and notes of all forum meetings, as well as the current terms of reference, are available here.