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    Scottish Budget: 50% rates relief for first three months; exemption for solar panels

    Finance Secretary Kate Forbes presents the 2022 Scottish Budget as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon looks on at Scottish Parliament Building on December 09, 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

    Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has announced the extension of business rates relief for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors for the first three months of 2022-23.

    The rates relief will continue at 50 per cent, capped at £27,500 per ratepayer. This will save ratepayers in these sectors an estimated £56 million in 2022-23.

    Presenting the budget statement in the Scottish Parliament yesterday, Forbes said the measure will “prevent a cliff edge for businesses” in these sectors.

    In 2021-22 the Scottish government maintained 100% Retail, Hospitality, Leisure and Aviation relief for the entire year, which is forecast to save businesses in these sectors £712 million.

    Forbes added that the business rates poundage will continue at 49.8p, the lowest in the UK, “delivering a below inflation uplift for the fourth year in a row.”

    She also declared annual reliefs worth £745 million to support small businesses and high streets.

    “A new build in one of our towns will pay no rates for the first 12 months after occupation, through the Business Growth Accelerator. Our competitive rates reliefs are directly seeking to revitalise our high streets,” Forbes said.

    She has also expanded the Business Growth Accelerator relief for property improvements to include the installation of solar panels as a qualifying improvement. The relief provides no rates increases for 12 months after a qualifying property improvement.

    The budget provisions £23.5 million for Green Jobs Fund to help businesses create green employment through investment and £43 million to drive forward Scotland’s circular economy.

    Businesses with a rateable value of less than £15,000 will continue to pay no rates for the entirety of next year through the Small Business Bonus Scheme.

    The budget also proposes a new legislation to help local authorities tackle a known avoidance tactic on empty non-domestic properties, providing local authorities with the discretion, in prescribed circumstances, to restrict the awarding of 100% empty property rates relief where the occupier has entered insolvency, compulsorily (by the court) or voluntarily.

    The finance secretary said that addressing child poverty, assisting businesses hurt by Covid-19, and the goal of net-zero carbon emissions were key priorities in crafting next year’s tax and spending plans.

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