SCC COMMENT ON AUTUMN STATEMENT
[ 03-12-2014 ]
Commenting on the Chancellor's Autumn Statement, Liz Cameron, Director and Chief Executive of Scottish Chamber of Commerce, said:
On Business Rates:
“The Chancellor’s announcement today to cap business rates rises at 2% again next year should signal a mirroring of this policy in Scotland, which would deliver a marginal boost to businesses across the country next year, which had been facing increases in their rates bills of 2.3% in April. That said, it is disappointing that the Chancellor did not take the opportunity to freeze Business Rates for the next two years, and we would urge the Scottish Government to go further while it has the opportunity.
“It is very welcome that the Chancellor has at last ordered a review of Business Rates in England and this must now prompt a root and branch reform of the tax in Scotland too, where Rates have been devolved since 1999. We would urge that such a reform be extensive, focused on fairness, transparency and accountability and that the recommendations be implemented in time for the next revaluation in 2017.
“Business Rates in Scotland have become increasingly uncompetitive since the last revaluation in 2010, with ratepayers now contributing almost £600 million more today than was the case four years ago. Taken together with recent decisions from the Scottish courts which restrict the accessibility of rating appeals, the time to review Scottish Business Rates is now overdue.”
On Corporation Tax:
“The Chancellor’s decision to devolve Corporation Tax to Northern Ireland creates an uneven application of an important business tax within the UK. Those Scottish businesses which are eligible to pay Corporation Tax look for a simplified and unified system across the United Kingdom but this step will add new, complex procedures to some businesses which operate throughout the whole country. However for the majority of Scottish businesses this will make little difference to their balance sheet as most are more burdened with the broken system of Business Rates which is hindering job creation and investment. For most businesses, particularly SMEs, reform of Business Rates is a higher priority than Corporation Tax, since Business Rates often begin to bite before a single penny is earned.
On Air Passenger Duty:
“Businesses across the UK have consistently called for this tax to be abolished. Whilst this part reduction should help support tourism and specifically those with children, it does nothing to help businesses across all sectors grasp potential exporting opportunities. This is simply a tax on growing businesses, as was partially conceded by the Chancellor in his last Budget Statement. If businesses are enabled to widen their reach and enter new markets, it would generate additional income elsewhere for Government. With this missed opportunity from the Chancellor, Scottish business now look to the Scottish Government to take the lead by announcing the total abolition as early as possible to reduce the cost for Scottish businesses to export and also attract investment from airlines.”
On Fuel Duty:
“At a time when costs need to be firmly kept under control, this further freeze is good news for all businesses. The time is not right to increase the burden on operating costs, particularly as costs remain fragile for a number of sectors.”
On Oil & Gas Taxation:
“The Chancellor’s decision to reduce the Supplementary Charge on oil and gas production from 32% to 30%, whilst welcome, does not seem to go far enough. The rate was only increased in 2011 as a result of the high oil prices that were prevalent at that time, so a reduction back to the 20% rate which applied before then would be only fair given current low oil prices. We welcome the decision to extend the ring fence expenditure supplement to 10 years for offshore oil and gas activities. However it is now time to review and simplify the oil and gas reliefs regime to make costs more stable and predictable for oil and gas businesses. We will await the Chief Secretary to the Treasury’s further detail on these areas when he visits Aberdeen this week.”
On the Scottish budget consequentials:
“We welcome the additional £213 million that this Autumn Statement will deliver to the Scottish Government’s own budget. With regard to capital spending, we would like to see the UK Government’s ambitious long term strategy for spending on repairing and improving roads to be implemented by the Scottish Government here in Scotland. We have numerous transport bottlenecks in urgent need of allocated funding, including the A9 Berriedale Braes in Caithness and the Maybole Bypass in Ayrshire."
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