Second home owners to be charged up to double council tax in Scotland

The Scottish Government has given councils the power to apply the premium up to double the standard rate.

New legislation passed in Scotland will see up to double the full rate of council tax charged on second homes.

The regulations giving local authorities the power to apply the premium have been approved by the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

Previously, second homes were subject to a default 50% discount on council tax.

However, local authorities can vary charges and the majority already charge second home-owners the full rate of council tax, the maximum allowed.

The new legislation treats second homes like long-term empty homes from April 1, 2024.

In the 2024-25 financial year, it will be based on rates from 2023-24.

New owners of properties that have previously been empty for more than twelve months will now have a six-month grace period, during which they will be protected from paying double the full council tax rate, with the potential for the six months to be extended by councils.

The Scottish Government said this is subject to evidence that renovations or repairs are being undertaken by the owner with a view to the building being brought back into use.

More than half of people (55%) were in favour of the change according to a Scottish Government and Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) consultation.

A second home is classed as any that is not used as someone’s primary residence but is occupied for at least 25 days in a year.

Public finance minister Tom Arthur said: “I’m pleased Parliament has backed this important legislation. These changes to council tax were a commitment made in our Programme for Government and aim to make sure the tax system works as an incentive to prioritise homes for living in.

“A majority of those who responded to our consultation earlier this year supported councils being able to charge a council tax premium on top of regular rates for second homes.

“By protecting those renovating an empty home from paying the empty home premium, we are incentivising new ownership and giving them time to organise and undertaken the work necessary to bring it back into use.”

Councillor Katie Hagmann, COSLA’s resources spokesperson, said: “I am delighted that this important legislation has now been given Parliamentary approval. COSLA very much welcomes the ability for councils to take the decision to increase the premium on second homes in their areas.

“This supports our long-standing position that councillors who are closest to their communities should be empowered to take the decisions about what best works in their local communities, demonstrating the value of the Verity House Agreement.”

The Verity House Agreement is a partnership signed by COSLA and the Scottish Government under Humza Yousaf which sets out the relationship between the two.

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