Publication - Corporate report

The Scottish Government Non-Domestic Rating Account: year ended 31 March 2021

An extract of the Scottish Consolidated Fund accounts, prepared under paragraph 6 of Schedule 12 to the Local Government Finance Act 1992.

The Scottish Government Non-Domestic Rating Account: year ended 31 March 2021
Foreword

Foreword

Statutory Background

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 2020-21 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 2020-21 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 2020-21 under paragraph 1 in respect of non-domestic rates distributed to the authorities in proportion to each local authority's 2019-20 mid-year non-domestic rates income return net of any prior year adjustments as specified in The Local Government Finance (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2020;

2.3. Payments made to and by Scottish Ministers in 2020-21 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

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 non-domestic rates income to be collected for the year, the accumulated balance on the non-domestic rates account and the overall financial outlook for the Scottish Government. From 2018‑19 the Scottish Fiscal Commission (SFC) has been responsible for preparing the forecast for non-domestic rates income to be collected. The forecast of the likely non-domestic rates income for the year is developed based on a number of factors (including the impact of any 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 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 £5.640 million could be retained by 9 local authorities in respect of 2018-19 and this loss to the pool was reflected in the 2020-21 non-domestic rates returns and reflected in the 2020-21 Non-domestic Rating Account. As a result of the impact of COVID-19, £972 million in 2020-21 and £541 million in 2021-22 of non-domestic rates income has been converted to General Revenue Grant for the cost of COVID-19 reliefs introduced by the Scottish Government. These reliefs were, in 2020-21, 100% relief for properties in the retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation (RHLA) sectors and 1.6% relief for other properties (both automatically awarded); and in 2021-22, 100% RHLA relief (application-based). In recognition of this, and that the Scottish Government continues to protect local government from the risk of any further non-domestic rates income losses, Scottish Ministers have confirmed that the Business Rates Incentivisation Scheme has been suspended for both 2020-21 and 2021-22. Any past or future retention, as a result of the revised Scheme, including in respect of 2019-20, will be accounted for, and reflected within, the relevant future Non-domestic Rating Accounts.

8. 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. The plans to either recover a deficit or payout any surplus are set out in the annual Scottish Budget[1].

9. As noted above the distribution of non-domestic rates is operated on a pooled basis and is derived from a series of estimates.

The Distributable Amount for 2020-21 of £2,840 million was originally calculated in January 2020 as part of the one year 2020-21 local government finance settlement. However the distributable amount of non-domestic rates was reduced by £971.970 million to reflect the package of measures that were announced on 18 March 2020 to support businesses impacted by COVID-19 resulting in a revised distributable amount of £1,868.030 million.

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 £5,393 million have appealed against the revaluation set in April 2017. The rateable values of the 2017 and 2010 revaluation appeals that were outstanding at 31 March 2021 was £1,141 million and £28 million respectively.

Estimates in respect of the impact of the unresolved appeals were taken into account in setting the Distributable Amount for 2020-21.

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 is available on our website[2].

Review of 2020-21

10. In 2020-21 Scottish Ministers received £1,969.3 million of non-domestic rates and £2,054.1 million was paid to authorities. The amount received was less than that paid out which resulted in a deficit of £84.9 million in 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 lower than estimated.

The balance brought forward on the account at 1 April 2020 was a surplus (or credit) of £24.9 million. To this is added the deficit for the year of £84.9 million, which leaves an overall deficit (or debit) on the account of £60.0 million at 31 March 2021. This debit will be taken into account when considering the amount to be paid to authorities in future years.

11. The budget concerned with this expenditure is that for the Scottish Government: Communities and Local Government Portfolio. The Scottish Government Consolidated Accounts can be accessed here[3].

12. The 2020-21 collection rate profile of non-domestic rates income has been broadly consistent with that seen in previous years albeit with a one month lag. This is in part related to councils issuing bills later than usual due to the announcement in March 2020 of COVID-19 non-domestic rates reliefs. As at August 2021, covering 2020-21 and 2021-22, the Scottish Government has provided an estimated support package of £4.4 billion for affected businesses and the economy, including £972 million in rates reliefs which was reflected in the non domestic rates distributable amount in 2020-21.

To support a sustainable recovery for businesses, the 2021-22 Scottish Budget delivers an unprecedented reduction in the poundage mid-revaluation alongside a package of non-domestic rates relief, including a 12-month extension of the 100 per cent relief for properties in the retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation sectors which was introduced in 2020-21. The forecast by the Scottish Fiscal Commission for non-domestic rates income and reliefs can be accessed here[4].

The full impact of COVID-19 on non-domestic rates income remains uncertain.


Contact

Email: BusinessRatesGeneralEnquiries@gov.scot