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 states that a Scottish APD replacement tax will come into effect in Scotland from April 2018.
Air Departure Tax (Scotland) Act 2017
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 is committed to reducing the overall burden of ADT by 50% by the end of the current session of the Scottish Parliament, and abolishing 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.
Important decisions have yet to be taken on how the overall 50% reduction could be delivered, including how the reduction will be distributed across tax bands (e.g. short-haul and long-haul flights) and tax rates and the profile of the reduction to ADT. Tax bands and tax rate amounts will be set out in secondary legislation in autumn 2017.
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:
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 is currently underway 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).
Both consultations are open for response until Friday 15 September 2017, and can be accessed at: https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/fiscal-responsibility/air-departure-tax.
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.