Despite the complicated nature of the forms, farmers and other landowners who have been contacted by regional valuation boards about shooting rights and rates have been urged not to ignore them – and to provide as much information as possible to the authorities.
Under this year’s Land Reform Act, non-domestic rates on shooting and deer forests are due to be re-introduced next April and assessors have been contacting farms and estates around the country to gather information on who owns and exercises shooting rights.
The reintroduction of these rates – last collected in 1995 – was strongly opposed by both NFU Scotland and Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) amongst others during the progress of the act.
The union said that while it had submitted amendments aimed at preventing their reintroduction during the bill’s progress, legislators had pressed ahead with the move – and while the rates and associated bureaucracy represented a burden which its member could do without, land occupiers had to comply with the law.
A spokesman for the union said that while the forms being sent out by regional valuation boards looked intimidating, farmers and landowners should not ignore them – as there was the potential for hefty sanctions – and do their best to provide as much information as possible.
Katy Dickson, senior policy adviser with SLE, said the impacts of the policy had not been properly assessed.
“However, we do now have to do our best to work our way through the new system – and we want it to be as fair as it possibly can,” said Dickson, who added it was in everyone’s interest to avoid a whole series of appeals over valuations.
“Those who hadn’t followed the Land Reform Bill closely might be taken aback by the whole thing.”
Dickson added that almost all non-developed land would have a sporting right – and would be likely to have a value attached to it – even if the shooting rights were not exercised.
However, she said it remained difficult to assess the financial impact on individual businesses. “As there has been no valuation methodology established yet and the poundage has yet to be set, we can’t yet predict how the rates bills will be calculated or what it is likely to be.”
Henry Gray, of the Tayside Valuation Board, indicated that, with few records of shooting rights held for the past 20 years, the assessors were effectively “starting from scratch” and could be facing a close run thing to have the exercise fully finalised in time for the introduction of rates next April.
He said that while the forms might look intimidating, the important thing was for farmers and landowners to provide as much information as they could.
But he said that although the details had not yet been set for next year, many smaller farms could escape actual payment under the small business bonus scheme.