Empty property levy sparks anger from CBI

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A BUSINESS lobby group has criticised the introduction of £18 million of annual levies on empty properties that come into force today.

David Lonsdale, assistant director of CBI Scotland, labelled the Scottish Government’s reduction in rates relief a “tax on distress” and “bewildering and disappointing”. He said the charges were “wholly at odds” with government promises to “promote private sector investment”.

Lonsdale said: “When unveiling this tax rise, the Scottish Government’s finance secretary said it would ‘incentivise’ the use of empty commercial premises. However, for our members it feels more like a stick than a carrot. After all, commercial premises are rarely left empty on purpose and particularly where they do not generate an income.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson insisted that even after its reform of empty property rates relief, charges would “continue to be the most generous in the UK”.

The spokesperson added: “This government is working tirelessly to retain Scotland’s position as the most supportive business environment and that is why we have the most competitive business rates regime in the UK, worth more than £560m next year.

“Incentives to encourage investment include a relief for new empty properties built in Scotland from 1 April 2013 and our ‘Fresh Start’ scheme, which focuses on helping landlords or developers attract occupiers to certain long-term empty properties.”