The Scottish Government is proposing business rates discounts as an incentive to bring unoccupied shops and offices back into use. Under the ‘Fresh Start’ scheme new occupants of properties that have been empty for 12 months or more will be entitled to a 50 per cent business rates discount for the first year of occupancy.
The proposal is included in the Unoccupied Properties Bill which will be debated by the Scottish Parliament in the near future. Local Government Minister Derek Mackay claims that Scotland already has the most competitive rates regime in the UK,” and that the proposal will be a boost to Scottish high streets.
Mr Mackay said; “I want to see local high streets across Scotland thriving and empty properties brought back into use across the country. By offering a fifty per cent discount to anyone bringing a shop or office that has been empty for twelve months or more back into use, this scheme will help to bring businesses back to our high streets and give empty properties a fresh start.”
He added that the scheme would be particularly helpful to start-ups for whom business rates levels may be a significant factor. It would also benefit existing businesses, he said, by making it easier for them to take up occupancy of larger premises. The scheme is scheduled to come into force on 1 April 2013 and local authorities will be able to offer more information in the New Year.
The Unoccupied Properties Bill contains proposals designed to further reduce the burden on landlords. If it is passed local authorities will have the power to extend business rates relief on commercial properties that have been empty for more than three months. This means that, instead of them becoming liable for full business rates, a 10 per cent discount will be applied.
Furthermore, industrial properties and listed buildings will continue to be entitled to 100 per cent relief after remaining unoccupied for over six months. These proposals will ensure that business rates relief continues to be “significantly more generous” in Scotland than it is in England and Wales, Mr Mackay concluded.
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