Local government finance circular 5/2023: non-domestic rates relief guidance

General information relating to current arrangements for non-domestic rates reliefs in 2023 to 2024

This document is part of a collection

Annex A: Non-domestic rates relief: information for Scottish local authorities

  1. Non-domestic rates (NDR), often referred to as business rates, are levied on non-domestic properties, subject to statutory exemptions and reliefs. The NDR framework for Scotland is devolved to the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government, and although broadly similar, is different in detail from arrangements in the rest of the United Kingdom (UK).
  2. Valuation of non-domestic properties is undertaken independently by the Scottish Assessors, subject to statutory appeal processes, with all valuations freely accessible on the Scottish Assessors Association’s webiste.[1] Scottish Ministers annually set a national poundage, which is applied to a property’s rateable value (RV). Rating, including billing, collection, enforcement and determination of rates relief, is undertaken by local authorities. A ratepayer may appeal to the council on the grounds that they are being improperly charged.[2]
  3. Certain types of properties are statutorily exempt from NDR, either through exclusion from the valuation roll (e.g. agricultural land and buildings) or exemption from rating (e.g. churches, lighthouses, fishings), the effect of these being that the property is not liable for rates.
  4. A number of reliefs are available for certain types of property nationally under Scottish law. These are subject to the UK’s international commitments on subsidy control arising from, amongst others, the Subsidy Control Act 2022, the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), World Trade Organisation Membership and commitments arising from international treaties and agreements to which the UK is a party. 
  5. Some reliefs are mandatory (i.e. they must be applied) and some are discretionary (i.e. local authorities have discretion as to their application).
  6. Under Part 11 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, local authorities may also reduce or remit non-domestic rates. In doing so, they must have regard to the authority’s expenditure and income and the interests of persons liable to pay council tax set by the authority. The revenue impact of local reliefs must be borne by the local authority unless otherwise specified. 

This Document

  1. Information in this document is provided by the Scottish Government, in conjunction with COSLA, to Scottish local authorities.
  2. This document has no statutory basis, is offered without prejudice to relevant legislation and legal decisions, and does not constitute legal advice. 
  3. The document was developed by the Scottish Government. A draft was shared for comment with a group of local authorities and COSLA ahead of finalising this version.
  4. The document aims to inform a mutual understanding amongst local authority practitioners. It includes general information relating across the different reliefs, and specific information relating to each relief.
  5. Given their responsibilities for managing public funds, it is up to local authorities to ensure that procedures for administering relief, including reviewing and re-application processes, are suitably robust, including for audit purposes.
  6. This document refers to amended legislation rather than amending legislation. For example, The Non-Domestic Rates (Telecommunication Installations) (Scotland) Regulations 2016 have to date been subject to a number of amendments – and reference is made to the 2016 Regulations.

[2] Section 238 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1947, section 238(1): “In respect of each rate levied by them every rating authority shall fix a date on or before which any person may lodge with the officer of the authority designated for the purpose an appeal against the rates claimed from him on the ground that he is being improperly charged, and another date on which the appeals shall be heard by the rating authority or a committee thereof.”

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