Council Tax for second and empty homes, and non-domestic rates thresholds: consultation

This joint public consultation with COSLA seeks views on giving local authorities the power to increase council tax on second homes and empty homes, as well as considering whether the current non-domestic rates thresholds for self-catering accommodation remain appropriate.


Second homes and empty homes (unoccupied dwellings) are currently defined in the Council Tax (Variation for Unoccupied Dwellings) (Scotland) Regulations 2013 as follows:

  • a "second home" is a dwelling which is no one's sole or main residence but which is furnished and lived in for at least 25 days during the chargeable 12 month period
  • an "unoccupied dwelling" is a dwelling, which is no one's sole or main residence but which is not used as a second home.

In this consultation paper, short-term lets is a wide term used to refer to the whole or part of accommodation provided to one or more guests on a commercial basis that does not become the main residence of the guest/s[1]. There are different types of short-term lets such as self-catering accommodation, B&Bs, guest houses, home letting and home sharing. What local taxation short-term lets are liable for will vary depending on the type of short-term let and applicable taxation rules.

For example, if a second home is used as self-catering accommodation it will be liable for non-domestic rates if the premises is:

a) not the sole or main residence of any person; and

b) being made available for letting, on a commercial basis and with a view to the making of profit, for 140 days or more in the financial year, and have in practice been let in the financial year for a total of 70 days[2]

If the self-catering accommodation does not meet the above criteria and thresholds it is liable for council tax instead.

B&Bs and guest houses may be liable for non-domestic rates if their operation has capacity to cater for more than 6 people at any one time, regardless of how many days the premises or rooms are available or actually let.



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