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Extra Council Tax Charge For Empty Scots Homes

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Wonk-mag "PLANNING"

http://www.planningresource.co.uk/Policy_and_Politics/login/1102116/

Registration required, but here you go:

Scots plan to charge extra for empty homes

By Adam Branson Friday, 04 November 2011

Scottish local authorities would be able to charge up to twice the usual rate of council tax on properties that have lain empty for more than six months and use the money to build affordable homes under proposals unveiled by the country's housing minister.

Under the plans put forward by Alex Neil, councils would also be required to demand that home owners pay council tax in full after their properties have been empty for more than six months.

At present, owners pay no council tax for the first six months that their property is left empty. After six months, they start paying council tax, but at a discount of ten to 50 per cent, depending on the policies of the local authority.

Neil said that, if all local authorities decided to use the proposed powers to charge twice the standard rate of council tax on empty homes, it could bring in an additional £30 million each year, which he said would be used for the construction of affordable homes.

Neil said: "Although the public purse is under huge strain, the Scottish government is doing all it can to increase the supply of affordable housing across the country. One way to do this is to tackle the problem of empty homes, which are a wasted resource and are often also a blight on local communities as they attract vandalism."

A consultation on the proposals runs until 10 January.

Dry-as-sticks ScotGov material here:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2011/10/17105007/0

Overview of what the Scottish Government is proposing

While the great majority of Councils have reduced the level of Council Tax discount provided for long-term empty properties, the reduced discounts on their own do not seem to have provided a sufficient incentive for most owners who did not otherwise plan to make their home available; in fact, data suggests that the number of long- term empty homes in Scotland has increased slightly in recent years.

We propose to bring forward legislation to the Scottish Parliament which would give Scottish Councils the extra flexibility to increase the amount of Council Tax charged on long-term empty homes. This flexibility will help Councils, particularly in areas with high levels of need for affordable or market housing. It is expected both to encourage home owners to bring their properties back into use – either for rent or for sale – and to raise additional revenue to fund affordable housing in their area.

We propose that the legislation should allow Councils both to no longer provide any discount for long-term empty homes and, in addition, to apply an excess charge (or ‘levy’) of up to 100% of the standard Council Tax rate for homes that are unoccupied long-term. This means that owners of these empty properties could be charged up to double the rate payable by home owners paying the standard rate.

[...]

Bringing long-term empty properties back into use would increase the number of homes available in a local area, contribute to area and town centre regeneration, discourage antisocial behaviour and help sustain rural communities.

My thirst for justice would have been slaked by an end to discounts for empty homes. An excess charge, IMHO, is unjustly punitive.

Get yourself over and fill in the consultation online form:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/consultations/government/counciltaxltep.asp

Participative democracy. You gotta love it!

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Wow. That is great - should help to release some more empty houses into the market to be used by people again.

I just wish that they would do the same thing in England.

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I'm loving this! B)

Let's get some of that empty property moving. We have a housing shortage and there isn't a lot of building going on. Housing is a precious resource, and using the tax system to try and encourage efficient use of it is the way to go.

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So how will councils know that houses are empty?

If you get a council tax discount, this gives you the motivation to register your house as empty. If you have to pay extra council tax on an empty home, why would anyone register it as empty?

Would councils then opt for using surveillance to check if homes are empty? How unpleasant and expensive would that be? Why am I asking so many questions?

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Via the already-existing army of crowdsource-enabled volunteer busybodies?

http://reportemptyhomes.com/

Oooh! It's that "big society" in action! :-)

The Nazis and the Stazi would recognise this as one of their own. Shelter used to be an honourable charity before it became big business.

Scenario;

So my granny goes into a care home and I struggle to sort out her affairs and prepare to sell her home, this takes time, lots of it since it involves lawyers and senility. Meanwhile some nasty sneak dobs me up to the housing police who steal what little income granny has in her pension after the government and care home have pocketed most of it.

Big society? Excuse me a moment while I'm digging up that AK47 from its hiding place.

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The Nazis and the Stazi would recognise this as one of their own. Shelter used to be an honourable charity before it became big business.

Scenario;

So my granny goes into a care home and I struggle to sort out her affairs and prepare to sell her home, this takes time, lots of it since it involves lawyers and senility. Meanwhile some nasty sneak dobs me up to the housing police who steal what little income granny has in her pension after the government and care home have pocketed most of it.

Big society? Excuse me a moment while I'm digging up that AK47 from its hiding place.

Sounds like you've got multiple homes and some of them are empty ... This is gonna sting!!

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Via the already-existing army of crowdsource-enabled volunteer busybodies?

http://reportemptyhomes.com/

Oooh! It's that "big society" in action! :-)

Great site! I've just reported a few in my street.

I'm going to drop the council a letter about it as well, just to make sure the message gets through B)

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The Nazis and the Stazi would recognise this as one of their own. Shelter used to be an honourable charity before it became big business.

Scenario;

So my granny goes into a care home and I struggle to sort out her affairs and prepare to sell her home, this takes time, lots of it since it involves lawyers and senility. Meanwhile some nasty sneak dobs me up to the housing police who steal what little income granny has in her pension after the government and care home have pocketed most of it.

Big society? Excuse me a moment while I'm digging up that AK47 from its hiding place.

No reason you can't sell it, or that it should take an excessive amount of time - unless you ask more than the correct market price. It doesn't have to take a lot of time if you're organised and you require the lawyer to be organised.

Good incentive to sort out granny's affairs promptly. (And after all granny benefits from prompt action, why would you want otherwise?)

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Just been through this scenario myself. Two family members lived in my old flat which I'd 'gifted' to one of them when I moved abroad and they subsequently willed it back to me. Flat is owned outright so no mortgage or other complications. Relative who now 'owned' the flat died in Feb. As the flat was willed to me I automatically get 6 months from legal transfer(not date of death) without liability for Council Tax, as long as its empty.

Flat wasnt empty as second relative lived there(paying Council Tax) but sadly only survived 4 months after the first one passed away. The flat passed back to me before the second one died and as a result I lost the 6 month window as the flat was occupied at some time after it became my property. Its all pretty complex and not quite as simple as sell granny's flat quickly...... rules are still that you pay 50% of normal amount.

How you would impose a penalty for non/limited occupation would seem to be far from simple.

Edited by abroad

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Yes, if it's any sort of administrative challenge at all it'd be better not to implement this measure. Particularly if it affects me. ;-)

No no far better to employ an army of inspectors to make sure that houses remain occupied for a sufficient quota of the time.......good news is that my local council have said that if house is unfurnished and unoccupied then its 100% off not 50%...... :lol:

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I'm subsidised by no one. You know bugger all about my financial affairs in the UK or elsewhere. Nice to see that edge of general resentment is still out there though, reminds me why I spend most of my time abroad :ph34r:

I do find this idea of being charged extra for not consuming something quite a bizarre concept.........however each to their own.

So from your high horse...how do you impose and police a penalty on folks not being there ? What does not being there actually mean ? Are you saying there should be a limit of 1 house per person ? or per family or what ? Lets see your image of how it should be done.

Edited by abroad

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I'm subsidised by no one. You know bugger all about my financial affairs in the UK or elsewhere. Nice to see that edge of general resentment is still out there though, reminds me why I spend most of my time abroad :ph34r:

I do find this idea of being charged extra for not consuming something quite a bizarre concept.........however each to their own.

So from your high horse...how do you impose and police a penalty on folks not being there ? What does not being there actually mean ? Are you saying there should be a limit of 1 house per person ? or per family or what ? Lets see your image of how it should be done.

You should read up on Land Value Tax then.

The idea is to tax scarce and expensive resources, to prevent hoarding and encourage folk to ensure they are put to use.

Given that housing is indeed a scarce and expensive resource the idea of removing the empty home discount seems like a good idea to me. (but then again I don't own 1 home, let alone 2).

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You should read up on Land Value Tax then.

The idea is to tax scarce and expensive resources, to prevent hoarding and encourage folk to ensure they are put to use.

Resources that have already been paid for with money that has already been taxed.......The question still stands, how do you check if a house is not being used without turning the population on itself and at what point is a house used and at what point is it unoccupied.....there are few absolutes in that situation.

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Resources that have already been paid for with money that has already been taxed.......The question still stands, how do you check if a house is not being used without turning the population on itself and at what point is a house used and at what point is it unoccupied.....there are few absolutes in that situation.

The answer is that you don't check. Every owner of every home has to pay council tax whether or not it is occupied. No need to turn the population in on itself.

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The answer is that you don't check. Every owner of every home has to pay council tax whether or not it is occupied. No need to turn the population in on itself.

yes i agree but the OP has stated that there is interest from councils in a punative tax on 'empty' homes. Quite similar as to you have suggested in that under utilised resources should be taxed.....

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So how will councils know that houses are empty?

If you get a council tax discount, this gives you the motivation to register your house as empty. If you have to pay extra council tax on an empty home, why would anyone register it as empty?

Would councils then opt for using surveillance to check if homes are empty? How unpleasant and expensive would that be? Why am I asking so many questions?

Where you been the last 100 years?

Councils tend to be built of vested interests. Nowadays you have to abstain on a vote if you are a VI. That shows everyone you may vote against them at a later stage if they don't play ball.

So (and I'm not saying this happens) you rent out the empty property to anyone that may vote against you (at an inflated rate) {Man friend would do})

They pay the rent and send back a request of what you can do for them at the next meeting.

If they can't find a man friend, they set the property up as prime social housing. If that doesn't work, they get squaters in.

To be serious though, they knock on the door and ask if the property is occupied.

No answer = no occupancy. Not rocket science. They should perhaps apply it to the thousands of office building that were put up on residential sites and then left empty for 10 years. Might be another VI there though :P

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yes i agree but the OP has stated that there is interest from councils in a punative tax on 'empty' homes. Quite similar as to you have suggested in that under utilised resources should be taxed.....

Ah but although I can see the logic in taxing under utilised resources, I can also see the point being made about a punitive rate costing a lot to administer.

I don't know what the solution is, but I don't believe folk should be able to get a discount just because they own two homes. If homes were plentiful there would be no need, but they are a limited resource.

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I'm subsidised by no one. You know bugger all about my financial affairs in the UK or elsewhere. Nice to see that edge of general resentment is still out there though, reminds me why I spend most of my time abroad :ph34r:

I do find this idea of being charged extra for not consuming something quite a bizarre concept.........however each to their own.

Resentment? Yes indeed, I resent the fact that the number of homeless children in emergency accommodation is at highest ever levels, while others enjoy and indeed are happy to boast about taxpayer-funded subsidies on their EMPTY HOMES.

Asserting that taxpayers do not subsidise your empty home (for which you revel in the hope of getting a 100% council tax rebate), asserting that empty properties do not 'consume' local services is a self-serving fallacy, for empty homes continue to served by the emergency services and infrastructure which is the major part of LA spend. Perhaps you would have law enforcement and fire services operate on a subscription-only model, like last seen in the eighteenth century? Perhaps you are an advocate of comprehensive road-charging? Perhaps this empty home of yours has its own completely independent water-supply and sewerage infrastructure? Perhaps you believe that your empty home does not benefit from general and universal refuse collection from neigbouring properties? For only then could you reasonably suggest that no-one subsidises your empty home.

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Wouldn't have thought this very workable, given the 1001 reasons a place could be empty without a major beaurocracy being created.

Enough tax payers money is already wasted everyday by the inept council in Aberdeen without giving them more "stuff" to bring their incompetency to bear on.

We need less government not more generally and in Aberdeen specifically a clear sweep to start again with professional competent manages based on essential services.

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Wouldn't have thought this very workable, given the 1001 reasons a place could be empty without a major beaurocracy being created.

I probably agree with this point. Given the propensity for illegal tax evasion and immoral tax avoidance which is one of the defining characteristics of our times, the introduction of punitive taxes would be tantamount to inviting lawbreaking and immoral behaviour. Its interesting, though, that this is framed in the language of 'workability' and 'bureaucracy', rather than morality and criminality. As if moral restraint or the need to obey the law were not enough to ensure compliance with the tax. Right enough.

So let us have a bonfire of bureaucracy, and say that all properties are taxed in their respective bands, irrespective of occupancy status. How would that be? More workable surely than the existing rebate system. Less bureaucracy, more justice, less lawbreaking

Enough tax payers money is already wasted everyday by the inept council in Aberdeen without giving them more "stuff" to bring their incompetency to bear on.

We need less government not more generally and in Aberdeen specifically a clear sweep to start again with professional competent manages based on essential services.

"Essential services", though. Mmmmm. I suspect that there's plenty wriggle-room in those weasel words. In your home town, for instance, it is said that incompetence and mismanagement has led a shortfall of some £70m in the council budget over the next 10 years. Aberdeen City Council are considering the closure of many of that city's famous parks and gardens, and selling the land. Essential services? They are also mooting the closure of all of that city's community libraries. Essential services? It is likely that CfE training in modern foreign languages will be stopped. Essential services? Class sizes in primary schools are to be increased by 78%. Essential services?

Aberdeen City Council have signalled their intention to implement all these measures, while signalling their reluctance to implement a reduction in council tax relief on empty homes.

I wholeheartedly agree with the desire for less government bureaucracy, and less bureaucratic impingement on our lives. But, this should be done with justice, or it runs the risk of consolidating the near-plutarchy like Aberdeen into open kleptocracy.

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I think we are in agreement that everything that Aberdeen Council get involved in turns to ...... The level of public service waste as a result of basic incompetency and a job creation led beaurocraucy is astronomical.

The parasitic nature of the public sector will change in the new era, 500k jobs to go, we its a good start but theres at least another few that could go as well.

What you are suggesting will add no value once the costs of the beaurocracy is "paid". You are correct those with choice, will choose to find ways to avoid payment.

As someone, getting a net value of -27k from my taxes, I am all in favour of individual responsibility, I've paid for my childrens education twice and my families health care twice, i'd do whatever it took to avoid paying yet more tax.....

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