Trade calls for rates parity

SLTA urges Scottish Government to overhaul system

• The SLTA wants the Scottish Government to overhaul business rates.

By Gillian McKenzie

TRADE chiefs have renewed calls for the system by which pubs’ business rates are calculated to be overhauled, claiming the current setup is “unfair” and a major burden on operators.

Scottish Licensed Trade Association boss Paul Waterson urged the Scottish Government to review the system, under which pubs’ rateable values are calculated based on turnover while other types of business, including licensed shops and supermarkets, are based on square footage.
Current rateable values, on which business rates are based, have been in place since April 1, 2010 and are based on 2008 figures. Business rates revaluations are usually carried out every five years but the Scottish Government has postponed the next revaluation from 2015 to 2017 in line with the Westminster government.
Waterson, who highlighted the issue in response to CAMRA pub closure figures released earlier this month, said under the current setup, pub business rates often amount to 8% or 9% of an outlet’s turnover, while other businesses pay between 1% and 2%.
“It cannot be fair that we’re rated on turnover and no one else is,” he said.
“Why are we treated differently to everyone else? It’s unfair.
“It’s ridiculous that licensed premises are rated in the way they are. Rates are around 8% or 9% of turnover and that’s a major burden for operators; if you charged high street shops 8% or 9% of their turnover they’d be shut. Plus we’re using figures from 2008, when the world was a very different place.
“We need a complete overhaul of the system.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said all properties in Scotland are valued independently from the government by the Scottish Assessors.
“We are delivering the most competitive business tax environment anywhere in the UK through our business rates policies, including a package of business rates reliefs worth more than an estimated £590 million,” he said.
“As part of this, around two in every five pubs in Scotland pay zero or reduced business rates bills. In addition, large retail premises, such as supermarkets that sell both alcohol and tobacco, are subject to the public health levy.”