Increasing housing availability using the tax system

Legislation passed on council tax on second and empty homes.

New powers enabling councils to charge up to double the full rate of council tax on second homes have been agreed by the Scottish Parliament.

Councils will be able to increase the charges from 1 April 2024, with rates for the first year being based on those from 2023-24.

The change brings second homes into line with council tax policy on long-term empty homes and aims to increase housing availability by encouraging more homes to be used for living in.

New owners of properties that have previously been empty for more than twelve months will now have a six-month grace period, during which they will be protected from paying double the full council tax rate, with the potential for the six months to be extended by councils. This is subject to evidence that renovations or repairs are being undertaken by the owner with a view to the building being brought back into use.

Public Finance Minister Tom Arthur said:

“I’m pleased Parliament has backed this important legislation. These changes to council tax were a commitment made in our Programme for Government and aim to make sure the tax system works as an incentive to prioritise homes for living in.

“A majority of those who responded to our consultation earlier this year supported councils being able to charge a council tax premium on top of regular rates for second homes.

“By protecting those renovating an empty home from paying the empty home premium, we are incentivising new ownership and giving them time to organise and undertaken the work necessary to bring it back into use.”

Councillor Katie Hagmann, COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson, said: 

“I am delighted that this important legislation has now been given Parliamentary approval. COSLA very much welcomes the ability for councils to take the decision to increase the premium on second homes in their areas.

“This supports our long-standing position that councillors who are closest to their communities should be empowered to take the decisions about what best works in their local communities, demonstrating the value of the Verity House Agreement.”  


The Council Tax (Variation for Unoccupied Dwellings) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2023

A second home is classed as any home that is not used as someone’s primary residence but that is occupied for at least 25 days in a year.

Latest figures show that at the end of September 2022, there were 24,287 second homes in Scotland.

Second homes are currently subject to a default 50% discount on council tax. However, local councils can vary council tax charges and the majority already charge second home-owners the full of council tax, the maximum currently allowed.

Council tax for second and empty homes, and thresholds for non-domestic rates: Consultation analysis


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