Edinburgh consultant slams ‘cynical’ new business rate regulations

A business rates consultancy has accused the Scottish Government of blocking rate appeals by introducing “cynical” regulations during the coronavirus crisis.
WYM Ratings director Billy McKaig said the move aims to block appeals from Scottish businesses.WYM Ratings director Billy McKaig said the move aims to block appeals from Scottish businesses.
WYM Ratings director Billy McKaig said the move aims to block appeals from Scottish businesses.

WYM Rating has criticised the introduction of a section of the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Act 2020 that means companies can no longer appeal rating valuations based on economic changes.

The consultancy raised concerns that the alterations could push more Scottish firms towards bankruptcy and said they have been rushed through “to block Scottish ratepayers seeking rates reductions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic”.

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The regulations change the definition of a material change of circumstances for businesses – a route by which ratepayers can seek rate reductions if there are abnormal events that reduce rental values.

While these changes were already known and contained within the act, WYM has labelled the timing as “questionable” given the unprecedented economic circumstances under which firms are operating due to the outbreak.

Property adviser CBRE last month also spoke out about the act, urging the Scottish Government to reconsider the introduction of the changes. Appeals already submitted will not be affected.

WYM director Billy McKaig said: “These rushed regulations can only be seen as a cynical move to prevent ratepayers seeking redress on rates assessments.

“Many businesses have been forced to close due to government guidance and are not eligible for the current reliefs and grants available. Rates appeals are the only way many Scottish ratepayers can seek any assistance during these times and this is being cynically restricted by government.”

McKaig also cited discrepancies between grants on offer to businesses north and south of the Border, adding: “Even where reliefs are available, these are not always consistent with assistance available in England. Certain retail, leisure and hospitality business in England can get grants of £10,000 or £25,000 per property occupied. In Scotland this is restricted to one grant per business.

“In England a retailer with four properties would qualify for four grants, in Scotland the same business only qualifies for one. Is this equitable or is it going to lead to more Scottish businesses facing bankruptcy?”

WYM, which has offices in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and London, advises international, national and Scottish ratepayers, including government agencies and NHS boards.

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