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

The Scottish Government will give councils the power to apply the premium up to double the standard rate.

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

The draft regulations giving local authorities the power to apply the premium have been laid before the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday.

Currently, second homes are 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 will treat 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.

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: “We want everyone in Scotland to have a home that meets their needs. We know second homes can sometimes benefit local communities, but they can also restrict the availability of housing and increase costs for people who want to rent or buy.

“Subject to approval by Parliament, this legislation aims to prioritise housing for living in by allowing local authorities to charge a council tax premium on second homes. Backed by a majority of respondents to our joint consultation with COSLA, it will enable councils to seek a fair contribution towards local services from second-home owners.”

COSLA resources spokesperson councillor Katie Hagmann said: “Subject to Parliamentary approval, COSLA very much welcomes the ability for councils to take the decision to increase the premium on second homes in their areas.

“Allowing the politicians who are closest to their communities to take decisions about what best suits local needs and circumstances is well aligned to 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.

Wednesday’s draft legislation comes after Scotland’s councils expressed outrage over not being consulted about a freeze on council tax next year that Humza Yousaf announced at the SNP conference in October.

COSLA described the move by the First Minister as “deplorable” and said it had no prior warning.

The Scottish Greens, which only found out hours before the announcement at the SNP conference, also criticised the tax freeze.

But Yousaf said Scots were filled with “dread” as bills continued to go “up and up” and said council tax would be frozen.

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