1. All references to sections relate to the Local Government Finance Act 1992 as amended by Schedule 13 to the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994. All references to paragraphs relate to Schedule 12 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992.
2. This account is prepared under paragraph 6 of Schedule 12 to the Local Government Finance Act 1992 and shows:
2.1. Payments to Scottish Ministers in 2019-20 under paragraph 11(3) as amended by paragraph 176(19)(d) of Schedule 13 to the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994 in respect of the provisional amount of non domestic rates estimated to be collectable in 2019-20 under paragraph 11(2) as amended by paragraph 176(19)(c) of Schedule 13 to the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994 and 12(5);
2.2. Payments made by Scottish Ministers in 2019-20 under paragraph 1 in respect of non domestic rates distributed to the authorities in proportion to each local authority’s 2018-19 mid-year non domestic rates income return net of any prior year adjustments as specified in The Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2019; and
2.3. Payments made to and by Scottish Ministers in 2019-20 under paragraphs 11(8), (9) and (10) in respect of prior year adjustments. Adjustments are necessary where the notified amount of an authority’s non domestic rating contribution for the year differs from the provisional amount referred to in paragraph 11(3), and also where the audited amount of an authority’s non domestic rating contribution for the year differs from the notified amount.
Pooling and Redistribution of Non Domestic Rates
Review of 2019-20
3. Under the system of local government finance which began on 1 April 1993, the yield of non domestic rates was paid to the Secretary of State for Scotland by local authorities who collect non domestic rates from businesses in their areas. The non domestic rates are thus, in effect, pooled. These sums are redistributed to authorities in proportion to each local authority’s most recent prior year mid-year non domestic rates income return net of any prior year adjustments available at the time of calculation. For example if local authority “A” has recorded that it expected to collect 10% of the total non domestic rates to be collected in Scotland in the most recent prior year then it is allocated 10% of the distributable amount of non domestic rates for the year in question.
The distributable amount is set with reference to the forecast NDR income to be collected for the year and the accumulated balance on the NDR account. From 2018-19 the Scottish Fiscal Commission (SFC) has been responsible for preparing the forecast for NDR income to be collected. The forecast of the likely NDR income for the year is developed based on a number of factors (including the impact of a revaluation, an assessment of likely successful appeals losses, the level at which the poundage is set and the package of reliefs that Ministers wish to put in place). The distributable amount is based on that forecast, the accumulated balance in the NDR account and the overall financial outlook for the Scottish Government.
The operation of the pool is now governed by Section 108 of and Schedule 12 to the Act and the Non Domestic Rating Contributions (Scotland) Regulations 1996 (S.I. 1996/3070). Following the devolution of local government finance in Scotland to the Scottish Executive on 1 July 1999, as set out in the Scotland Act 1998, these sums became due to Scottish Ministers and redistribution also became their responsibility.
The purpose of the account is to demonstrate that all non domestic rates paid to Scottish Ministers are redistributed to authorities.
4. Non domestic rates paid to and by Scottish Ministers are credited to or drawn from the Scottish Consolidated Fund. There is no separate fund through which these monies pass. Scottish Ministers are, however, required to maintain a “Non Domestic Rating Account” for each financial year. They must credit to the account, as items of account, non domestic rates received by them and must debit to the account payments made to authorities in the course of the year.
5. In order to avoid unnecessary cash transfers between Scottish Ministers and local authorities, only net payments are made, reflecting the net balance of sums due to be paid by them to authorities and of sums due from authorities to them. However, if the non domestic rating account showed only net payments it would give an uninformative picture of the operation of the non domestic rating system. The account therefore shows as items of account all the non domestic rate entitlements and liabilities which have been discharged, rather than merely cash sums received or paid out.
6. In accordance with paragraph 176(19c) of Schedule 13 to the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994 (and the appropriate Non Domestic Rating Contributions (Scotland) Regulations) contributions from authorities to Scottish Ministers have been based on each authority’s “provisional amount” (calculated by the authorities themselves at the beginning of each financial year). This amount represents the non domestic rates which the levying authorities estimate will be collectable from non domestic ratepayers in the area of the authority. The authority is liable to pay that amount to Scottish Ministers during the year. An authority may, in prescribed circumstances, recalculate its provisional contribution during the year if the amount of rates collectable falls below that originally estimated. Each authority is also required to recalculate its contribution after the year ends. As a result, it may be required to make further payments to Scottish Ministers if the result of this calculation is greater than the provisional amount, or Scottish Ministers may be required to reimburse the authority for any overpaid contributions.
7. With effect from 1 April 2012 the Scottish Ministers introduced the Business Rates Incentivisation Scheme to incentivise local government to exceed the non domestic rates income expected to be collected within their area. This original Scheme was revised with effect from 1 April 2014. Under the terms of both Schemes any local authority that exceeds its non domestic rate income target, set by Scottish Ministers, retains 50 per cent of that additional income. Scottish Ministers agreed with local government that a total of £3.754 million could be retained by 10 local authorities in respect of 2017-18 and this loss to the pool was reflected in the 2019-20 non domestic rates returns and reflected in the 2019-20 Non Domestic Rating Account. Any future retention as a result of the revised Scheme will be accounted for, and reflected within, the relevant future Non Domestic Rating Accounts.
8. The non domestic rating pooling arrangement requires all non domestic rates paid to Scottish Ministers to be redistributed to local authorities. The sum to be redistributed in any one year (the “Distributable Amount”) is calculated by Scottish Ministers before the financial year using estimates of the items to be credited and debited to the account in the year (Local Government Finance Act 1992, Schedule 12, Paragraph 9) as amended. The distributable amount is set with reference to the forecast NDR income to be collected for the year and the accumulated balance on the NDR account. From 2018-19 the Scottish Fiscal Commission (SFC) has been responsible for preparing the forecast for NDR income to be collected. The forecast of the likely NDR income for the year is developed based on a number of factors (including the impact of a revaluation, an assessment of likely successful appeals losses, the level at which the poundage is set and the package of reliefs that Ministers wish to put in place). However, it is unlikely that the aggregate of payments into the pool in any one year will exactly equal the estimates used to calculate the Distributable Amount. As a result, the sum of the items credited to the account in any one year may be higher or lower than payments debited to the account in that year. If there is a surplus, it is carried forward by debiting the account for the year and crediting the next year’s account, so increasing the amount available for potential redistribution the following year. A deficit is carried forward by crediting the account for the year and debiting the next year’s account (Schedule 12, Paragraph 8). This account demonstrates that, looking at the non-domestic rates account over a number of years, all non domestic rates paid to Scottish Ministers are redistributed to authorities.
9. As noted above the distribution of NDR is operated on a pooled basis and is derived from a series of estimates.
The Distributable Amount for 2019-20 was originally calculated in December 2018 as part of the one year 2019-20 local government finance settlement. At that time non domestic subjects with a total rateable value of £4,946 million had appealed against the valuation set in April 2010. Non domestic subjects with a total rateable value of £5,391 million have appealed against the revaluation set in April 2017.
Estimates in respect of the impact of the above were taken into account in setting the Distributable Amount for 2019-20.
It is in the nature of the process that the various estimates above will require to be updated in the light of improved or additional information. This additional information can include policy decisions on the annual rates poundage and on reliefs and supplements. The calculation of Distributable Amounts going forward will reflect revised estimates for these variables.
The level of funding to Local Authorities in a financial year is not affected by variations in the levels of non domestic rates receipts; equivalent adjustments are made to the levels of General Revenue Grant paid by the Scottish Government. Those sums are not reflected in this account. The Scottish Government Consolidated Accounts report the funding provided to Local Government as a whole within the Communities and Local Government Portfolio. An explanation of Local Government finance can be accessed on our website .
10. In 2019-20 Scottish Ministers received £2,920.4 million of non domestic rates and £2,919.4 million was paid to authorities. The surplus of £1.0 million was debited from the account for 2019-20 and credited to the account for 2020-21. As noted above, appropriate adjustments were made to the level of General Revenue Grant to Local Authorities in year because the amounts collected were higher than estimated.
Taking the accumulated surplus of £23.8 million, carried forward from the previous financial year, this produces an overall credit on the account of £24.9 million to be carried forward in 2020-21. This surplus is the cumulative position of actual non-domestic rates receipts collected compared to the estimates of what would be collected included in the calculation of the distributable amount.
11. The budget concerned with this expenditure is that for the Scottish Government: Communities and Local Government. The Scottish Government Consolidated Accounts can be accessed here.
12. The impact of Covid-19 on Non Domestic Rates Income will not become clear until the 2019-20 Notified and Audited returns and 2020-21 provisional amounts and mid-year estimates are submitted by local authorities. This information will become available during 2020-21 and will be recorded in the 2020-21 Non Domestic Rating Account. At that time we will be able to provide commentary on how Covid-19 has impacted on non-domestic rates income and the steps the Scottish Government has taken in the short and medium term to address the impact.
Laid before the Scottish Parliament by the Scottish Ministers
17 December 2020
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