Business rates relief for Scottish independent schools under threat

22 Aug 2019 News

Scottish Government building, Victoria Quay, Leith, Edinburgh

From Scottish Government's Flickr:

The Scottish government is pressing ahead with plans to remove business rates relief for the country's independent schools.

The Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill is currently at Stage 1 of the legislative process following a recent call for evidence.

The wide-ranging piece of legislation proposes the removal of “any reduction or remission of rates in respect of lands and heritages which are wholly or mainly used for the purpose of carrying on an independent school”.

However, it proposes exceptions for special schools, or independent schools specialising in music.

Currently, charity properties across the UK receive a mandatory 80 per cent discount on their business rates, with local authorities able to charge the remaining 20 per cent at their own discretion.

‘Two-tier system’

Scotland’s charity regulator OSCR warned in its response to the Scottish government’s call for evidence that the proposed changes could undermine public trust in the sector.

It said: “Allowing the creation of a ‘two-tier’ charity sector within a ‘single-tier’ regulatory regime could be damaging to the public’s trust and confidence in both the sector and charity law.”

The Charity Tax Group echoed OSCR’s concerns in its submission, warning that the changes could have negative effects for charities across the UK.

It said: “We share OSCR’s concerns and we believe that the impact could be damaging to the public’s trust and confidence in the sector across the UK, not only in Scotland.”

Richard Bray, CTG's vice-chairman, expressed similar concerns at the organisation's annual conference in April, warning of the creation of "first and second-class charities".

Civil Society Media's Charity Finance Week takes place in October and this year the theme is Accounts and Accountability. Find out more about the events taking place. 



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