The Government has launched a consultation on avoidance and evasion in the business rates system to protect essential funding for local services.
The consultation consists of three sections. The first focuses on specific proposals to reform Empty Property Relief, to address the most widely used and publicised means of business rates avoidance. This relief, when properly applied, provides important support to landlords with vacant properties: the Government is therefore seeking views on measures which aim to balance support for those who need it with limiting scope for abuse.
The second section serves as a call for evidence on wider avoidance and evasion activity within the business rates system. The Government welcomes any information respondents have on other methods of avoidance and evasion, and the scale of such activity. This section also includes questions on the sufficiency of the powers and information available to local authorities to combat avoidance and evasion.
The final section concerns poor practice by rating agents. The Government recognises that most rating agents provide a valuable service to their clients to a high professional standard. Nevertheless, some agents seek to take advantage of their clients or actively promote avoidance strategies. The consultation will seek to understand the nature and scale of any issues, and identify potential action the government could take to help address poor practice.
The consultation can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/business-rates-avoidance-and-evasion-consultation.
The closing date for responses is 28 September 2023.
This joint Scottish Government/ COSLA consultation is seeking views on plans to increase the amount paid by people in bands E, F, G and H in Scotland. This aims to address criticism that the system is unfair, because at present those in the lower bands pay a higher proportion of the value of their property than those in the higher bands.
Around 75% of properties would be unaffected if the proposals, which could be phased in over a period of three years, were implemented. The Council Tax Reduction scheme would continue to offer lower bills for those unable to afford their council tax, regardless of what band they are in.
Council Tax band multipliers can be amended by regulations. This was done from the start of the 2017 Council Tax year, resulting in the tax for properties in Bands E, F, G and H being increased by 7.5%, 12.5%, 17.5% and 22.5% respectively. These higher charges continue, but as most homes in Scotland are in Bands A to D, the increases only affected around 25% of all properties.
Repeating the 2017 changes would mean Council Tax would increase by 7.5%, 12.5%, 17.5% and 22.5% for properties valuation Bands E, F, G and H respectively if the rates for Band D properties remained unchanged. The average annual increases, based on 2023-24 Council Tax rates, would be around £139, £288, £485 and £781 per dwelling in these Bands respectively, potentially raising an additional £176 million, with around 28% of all properties being impacted.
If changes were to take effect from 2024-25, any increases could be introduced through a phased-approach, with percentage year-on-year increases over a number of financial years (e.g. for Band H around £260 (7.5% based on 2023-24 rates) increase in each of the next three financial years starting from 2024-25, such that the full £781 (22.5%) increase does not apply until 2026-27).
A repetition of the 2017 changes provides the basis for the questions in the consultation, although Scottish Government also asks for views on whether higher or lower increases would be more appropriate.
The consultation can be found at https://www.gov.scot/publications/consultation-fairer-council-tax/.
Closing date for responses is 20 September 2023.
This call for evidence seeks views from individuals and businesses on their experiences of non-statutory flexible working, including how it operates in practice.
Informal flexible working can benefit individuals and businesses alike. The Government wants to explore this further through this call for evidence. Views are sought from individuals and businesses on their experiences of non-statutory flexible working and how it operates in practice.
The first section of the call for evidence focuses on “ad hoc” arrangements. It includes questions on how and why individuals use this type of workplace flexibility, as well as questions about access and barriers to take-up. This section also contains questions for employers on whether, how and for what reasons they provide this type of flexibility.
The second section focuses on “regular” arrangements. It includes questions on whether and what arrangements employers offer and how and on what basis they are agreed.
The third section considers organisational approaches to non-statutory flexible working (which may be set out in a contract or be less formal), and includes questions on policies, supporting managers and monitoring and evaluation.
The call for evidence can be found at Call for evidence: non-statutory flexible working - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
Closing date for responses is 7 November 2023.
The government is running a call for evidence as part of plans to better regulate the private parking sector, including considering options for private parking charges (issued for a perceived breach of a car park’s rules) and debt recovery fees.
The measures considered are part of developing a code of practice, as required by the Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019, which will ensure greater regulation of the private parking industry.
The call for evidence (Private parking code of practice: call for evidence - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)) is running for 10 weeks, closing on 8 October 2023, with a further consultation then planned on the options for parking charges and debt recovery fees.
The White paper sets out proposals for reform to the system of devolved tribunals in Wales to create a unified, coherent tribunal system which will comprise the First-tier Tribunal for Wales and the Appeal Tribunal for Wales.
The consultation seeks views on proposals:
To create a statutory framework for a new tribunal system comprising of:
A new First-tier Tribunal for Wales; and
A new Appeal Tribunal for Wales.
To create a new statutory body ““Tribiwnlysoedd Cymru / Tribunals Wales”, to administer the new tribunal system.
To strengthen judicial supervision through an enhanced role for the President of Welsh Tribunals and Chamber presidents and deputies.
To create a consistent approach for setting procedural rules for the new tribunal system.
For simplified and coherent arrangements for the appointment of tribunal members, deployment and complaints.
The consultation can be found at https://www.gov.wales/a-new-tribunal-system-for-wales-white-paper.
Closing date for responses is 2 October 2023.
A library containing Institute responses to Consultations, Inquiries, Surveys etc. can be found at https://www.irrv.net/homenew/item.php?wid=20&iid=27305.
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