Scottish Land & Estates has issued guidance to farms, estates and land-based businesses following concerns raised about the completion of newly issued assessment forms pertaining to sporting rights.
The organisation, which represents land-based businesses across Scotland, said it had received a number of enquiries from members who had received a form from their local assessor but who were not aware that they would be affected by the reintroduction of non-domestic rates on sporting rights - and were concerned that they did not have all the information necessary to complete the form quickly and accurately.
Katy Dickson, Senior Policy Officer (Business, Property and Connectivity) at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Forms are now being issued by local assessors to farms and estates across Scotland. If you own or occupy the sporting rights on any parcel of undeveloped land, especially in a rural area, then it is almost certain that you will receive a form shortly if you have not already done so. This will apply not just to large estates but to farms, crofts and smallholdings.
“It is a statutory obligation to complete the form and explain what type of land is held and where shooting rights may be exercised, even for the purpose of controlling species considered to be vermin.
“We have published a question and answer guidance on our website and we are happy to answer further questions where we can. It may take some time to collate the information required especially if sporting rights are exercised by third-parties such as sporting tenants. The more accurate the detail that can be provided to the assessors just now, the more likely they are to be able to reach reliable and fair valuations.”
Scottish Land & Estates said that whilst it continued to disagree with the reintroduction of the rates themselves, it was in the interests of all businesses to complete the form to the best of their ability.
Ms Dickson added: “It is a huge task faced by the assessors to gather this information. It comes with potentially significant cost to the public purse but it is a process that should be engaged with.
“That said, we are still opposed to the reintroduction of these rates. Despite making our views clear during the land reform process that this was a policy that would be difficult to implement and could negatively affect a wide-range of rural businesses, the political rhetoric suggested that this would simply be a measure to make ‘wealthy lairds pay their taxes’ and no one else would be affected.
“This misinformation has led to a situation where many farmers and other land-based businesses had little idea that they may also be liable for the reintroduction of non-domestic rates on sporting rights.
“Whilst we and other rural organisations have continued to raise awareness about this issue among our members, we don’t believe enough has been done by government to forewarn rural businesses. This is an extra burden for these businesses at an already uncertain time. We also continue to have doubts that the revenue raised from this measure will cover the cost in identifying and assessing every parcel of land that needs to be looked at.
“The former Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Aileen Macleod, gave a commitment that Scottish Ministers would engage the sector once the emerging valuations and therefore potential economic and environmental impacts are known, ahead of making ratings decisions in 2017. We look forward to that engagement taking place in due course.”