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The Scottish Government is working at close quarters with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) to determine the feasibility of charging second home owners twice the full rate of council tax on second homes, starting from April 2024. This change will bring the rules in line with long-term empty homes.

First Minister Humza Yousaf announced this latest consultation at the Scottish Trades Union Congress, with the proposals aimed at making housing stock more accessible and affordable to Scottish first-time buyers.

Mr Yousaf believes these new proposals can provide a long-term solution for the 42,865 homes that were deemed long-term vacant in Scotland as of January 2023.

“By recognising the important role councils have in considering local needs, these proposals aim to strike a balance between good housing supply and helping communities to thrive and benefit from tourism,” said Mr Yousaf.

The proposal is that second homeowners should be encouraged to make what the Scottish Government is calling a contribution to the local area in which their accommodation is located. It advises this contribution could come by making the second home available for let as a private rental tenancy or otherwise being liable to pay the new proposed higher council tax.

The consultation also asks for views on whether the current non-domestic rates thresholds for self-catering accommodation remain appropriate.

Currently, this happens if the property is let for a total of 70 nights and is available to let for 140 nights in a tax year.

What is the current council tax treatment of second and vacant homes?

Owners of second homes and vacant residential properties may be eligible for a 50% discount on their annual council tax bills.

Only properties deemed empty for more than 12 months are potentially liable for a 100% premium, which is effectively a double charge of the full rate of council tax.

“I encourage anyone who is interested to respond to the consultation as we try to prioritise homes for living in, seeking a fair contribution to local services from everyone and recognising the benefits to local economies from self-catering accommodation and second homes,” added Mr Yousaf.

“All responses will be carefully considered before legislation is introduced to the Scottish Parliament.”

Date published 2 May 2023 | Last updated 28 Nov 2023

Fraser McKay, MCIPR (Accredited)

Fraser is a highly experienced journalist and Accredited PR Professional and joined TaxAssist in 2016. He writes articles covering a wide range of topics relating to small businesses and accounting. In addition, Fraser provides communications training to the network, as well as looking after TaxAssist Accountants' national and local social media channels.

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