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Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill

Overview

The Bill allows for some buyers to no longer pay additional Land and Buildings Transaction Tax. This would apply to a person who sells a home and their spouse buys another residential property which becomes their main home.

This Bill will allow buyers to claim that tax back if they have already paid the extra amount. 

The extra amount only applies to transactions where the buyer owns more than one home. This will be if, on the day of buying a house, the buyer still owns another property. 

You can find out more in the Explanatory Notes document that explains the Bill.

Why the Bill was created

The extra amount of Land and Building Transaction Tax (LBTT) is still charged. For example, if one spouse owns the main home and then the other spouse buys another residential property. They will count as a married couple who both own the home they currently live in and then buy another residential property together.

The joint buyers are one economic unit to stop properties moving between individuals to avoid paying tax.

The extra amount was charged if couples were both buying a home to replace a house that only one of them owned. 

They had to pay the extra amount because only one name was on the title deeds. This Bill removes the tax and reimburses people who have already paid. 

You can find out more in the Policy Memorandum document that explains the Bill.

Where do laws come from?

The Scottish Parliament can make decisions about many things like:

  • agriculture and fisheries
  • education and training
  • environment
  • health and social services
  • housing
  • justice and policing
  • local government
  • some aspects of tax and social security

These are 'devolved matters'.

Laws that are decided by the Scottish Parliament come from:

Bill stage timeline

The Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill became an Act on 22 June 2018

Becomes an Act

The Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill passed by a vote of 109 for, 1 against and 0 abstentions. The Bill became an Act on 22 June 2018.

Stage 1 - General principles

Committees examine the Bill. Then MSPs vote on whether it should continue to Stage 2.

Committees involved in this Bill

Who examined the Bill

Each Bill is examined by a 'lead committee'. This is the committee that has the subject of the Bill in its remit.

It looks at everything to do with the Bill.

Other committees may look at certain parts of the Bill if it covers subjects they deal with.

Who spoke to the lead committee about the Bill

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First meeting transcript

The Convener

The final piece of business on our agenda today is evidence on the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill at stage 1 from Derek Mackay, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution. The cabinet secretary is joined by officials: Ewan Cameron-Nielsen, from the finance directorate, and John St Clair, the senior principal legal officer in the Scottish Government. Members have copies of all the written evidence that has been received, along with a SPICe briefing. Before we go to questions, I invite the cabinet secretary to make an opening statement.

Derek Mackay

Thank you, convener. The bill aims to give retrospective effect to an order that was considered by the committee in June 2017. That order and the bill consider the treatment of economic units—the term that is given to married couples, civil partners and cohabitants, and those who are living as if they are a married couple under the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2016. In 2016, the additional dwelling supplement—a 3 per cent additional rate of tax—was introduced. That supplement applies when, on the effective date of a transaction, a buyer owns more than one dwelling and they are not replacing a main residence. In the context of the legislation, replacing a main residence means selling the previous main residence and buying a new main residence.

It is the Scottish Government’s intention that, when the additional dwelling supplement is paid, it can be reclaimed when a main residence is being replaced and the sale of the previous main residence occurs within 18 months of the purchase of what then becomes the current main residence. As ADS has been in operation, it has become clear that, in practice, the legislation has not worked as it was intended to in relation to economic units and the ability to reclaim the tax that is paid after a former main residence has been sold. That has been corrected for all transactions occurring after the order came into force, in June 2017.

Members of this committee and stakeholders highlighted a desire to secure retrospectivity for the relief in respect of the qualifying couples. The Scottish Government agrees with that view and has, therefore, brought forward primary legislation for your consideration to enable the relief to apply retrospectively. That will mean that qualifying buyers will be able to reclaim a payment of ADS when they have had to pay the additional amount despite having disposed of the previous main residence in the 18 months prior to the effective date or when they would not otherwise be able to reclaim the additional amount, having disposed of their previous main residence in the 18 months after the effective date.

I look forward to hearing the committee’s views on the matter.

The Convener

Thank you, cabinet secretary. Ivan McKee has a question about groups.

Ivan McKee

Cabinet secretary, you will have seen that, in some of the submissions that we have received, there are comments from the Law Society of Scotland and others about other changes that they want to see to the LBTT regime. There are also some comments on the process whereby Revenue Scotland and the Government interacted and were involved in reviewing and making changes as required. I do not know whether you have had a chance to look at those submissions. Do you have any comments to make on any of those areas?

Derek Mackay

I am aware of some of those issues, but I want to be clear that the scope of the bill is really tight—it just gives effect to what we know we need to fix. The scope is tight, the purpose is clear and that is what I want to achieve.

Other people have engaged in other matters relating to LBTT, and there are wider issues. It would be nice to have a finance bill like the one at Westminster that is able to do a lot of tidying up when there might be unintended consequences and anomalies or when refinement might be required. That would be a great place for such issues to be addressed in the future. However, issues such as the group shares issue and other matters are not part of this bill. I think I have a remedy that would help with that specific issue, but I will write to the committee before I announce anything—I will not prejudice or preview that now.

There are other matters that are not relevant to the purpose of this piece of legislation but that I will reconsider in the light of the engagement that we have had over the last wee while.

Ivan McKee

Thanks very much.

Murdo Fraser

I remind members of my interest as a member of the Law Society of Scotland.

Before I ask my question, I thank the cabinet secretary for bringing the bill forward. He will recall that I wrote to him on the issue some time ago, raising a matter that involved constituents of mine who were caught by this particular loophole. I am delighted that the cabinet secretary has acted on that.

Derek Mackay

It is terrifying what we can do when we work together.

Murdo Fraser

Isn’t it marvellous? We should do more of it, cabinet secretary.

The Convener

Hear, hear.

Murdo Fraser

My question relates to a comment that was made by the Law Society in the evidence it has submitted to the committee. The society welcomes the bill as it is drafted, but it makes the point—which I think is quite an important one—that the measure will require to be given wide publicity once the bill is enacted to ensure that the taxpayers who have been caught out are aware of the change in the law and that, if they have paid ADS, they are able to reclaim that. How does the Scottish Government propose to publicise the legislation, assuming that Parliament passes it?

Derek Mackay

I am not sure that a mass publicity campaign would be the most proportionate, effective or targeted intervention, whereas Revenue Scotland will have a very clear function. It has been aware of our desire to remedy the situation, so I think that we will engage with Revenue Scotland and see how it approaches it.

I am happy to have Revenue Scotland engage with the committee—it is not for me to do so—if the legislation is successfully passed, explaining how it will contact people who are entitled to reclaim the money. I am sure that constituency members will also get back positively to cases that have been raised.

We have estimates of the cost and of how many people the bill should affect—that is all in the financial memorandum. It is a fair point that we must try to identify them. In any event, the legal world will be well aware of the bill and will raise publicity, but it is a good question for Revenue Scotland.

The Convener

I think that Ivan McKee still has a quick question.

Ivan McKee

Just for the sake of completeness, I wanted to refer on the record to my entry in the register of members’ interests with respect to residential property.

The Convener

No other committee member has identified that they wish to ask a question at this stage. Thank you, cabinet secretary. The clerks will now produce a report for the stage 1 process.

Meeting closed at 11:49.  



Finance and Constitution Committee Committee's Stage 1 report 

What is secondary legislation?

Secondary legislation is sometimes called 'subordinate' or 'delegated' legislation. It can be used to:

  • bring a section or sections of a law that’s already been passed, into force
  • give details of how a law will be applied
  • make changes to the law without a new Act having to be passed

An Act is a Bill that’s been approved by Parliament and given Royal Assent (formally approved).

Debate on the Bill

A debate for MSPs to discuss what the Bill aims to do and how it'll do it.

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Stage 1 debate on the Bill transcript

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

The next item of business is a stage 1 debate on motion S5M-10795, in the name of Derek Mackay, on the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill.

16:11  



The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution (Derek Mackay)

This is part 2 in this afternoon’s act. It will probably be a far more consensual debate than the previous one. It is a shame that Mr Simpson has departed from the chamber, because his use of the books of Dickens to characterise me has inspired the BBC. I hope that there will be no conjuring up of more such impressions of me in this debate, which will show what a reasonable person I am.

Just short of three years ago, the land and buildings transaction tax came into effect in Scotland, alongside the Scottish landfill tax. They were the first new national Scottish taxes to be introduced by a Scottish Parliament in more than 300 years.

Subsequently, in 2016, the Parliament approved legislation to introduce the LBTT additional dwelling supplement, which is a 3 per cent additional rate of tax that is applied to certain house purchases. The supplement applies where, at the end of the day that is the effective date of a transaction, a buyer owns more than one dwelling and the buyer is not replacing a main residence. Where the additional amount is paid, the legislation provides that it can be reclaimed when a main residence is being replaced and the sale of the previous main residence occurs within 18 months of the purchase of what then becomes the current main residence.

The introduction of the original LBTT legislation and the subsequent introduction of the additional dwelling supplement were important milestones on Scotland’s tax journey, but it is important to acknowledge and recognise that, on occasion, there will be a need for change. Tax is complex and it is inevitable that, at times, amendments will be required or desirable to improve operation, or for other reasons.

Reflecting that fact, the Scottish approach to taxation is founded in part on effective engagement and partnership working with stakeholders. It was as a consequence of that engagement, which included engagement with MSPs, that, last summer, I introduced secondary legislation to address a specific issue that had been highlighted in relation to the treatment of married couples, civil partners and co-habitants—referred to as an economic unit—in the ADS legislation.

The order that was approved by the Parliament in June 2017 addressed the scenario in which a couple jointly buy a new main residence, but only one of the couple’s names was on the title deeds of their shared previous main residence. Its effect was to ensure that relevant couples did not have to pay the additional dwelling supplement or could claim repayment of the supplement when their previous main residence was sold within the 18-month period.

Although the order addressed the issue for transactions that took place after it came into effect, it could not apply to transactions that had taken place previously, and members of the Finance and Constitution Committee and stakeholders rightly raised that as a concern during their scrutiny of the order.

The Scottish Government agrees with that view, so it has introduced the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill to deliver parity for all taxpayers, regardless of the effective date of their transaction. The bill is single-minded in its focus and scope, in that it serves solely to give retrospective effect to the provisions of the 2017 order. I thank the Finance and Constitution Committee for its scrutiny of the bill, and I welcome its support for the bill’s general principles.

I recognise, of course, that stakeholders have raised a number of other issues around the additional dwelling supplement and the approach to devolved taxes more widely. I welcome their input and engagement and take seriously the points that they have raised. I assure members that, although they are outwith the scope of this bill, the issues that were raised in the submissions will be considered. However, many of the asks would involve a much more significant amendment to the legislation, so they will require further attention.

On the issue of group reliefs specifically, I intend to bring forward a consultation on draft secondary legislation to address for future transactions the concerns that stakeholders have raised. Such legislation would deliver parity of approach between LBTT and stamp duty land tax in this area.

Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

I welcome what the cabinet secretary has just said about group reliefs. I do not know whether he is familiar with the Law Society of Scotland briefing that was issued for this stage 1 debate, but it sets out a number of examples of other areas in which people buying houses together might inadvertently become liable to the additional dwelling supplement. Does the Scottish Government have any plans to look at those areas as well to see whether they require to be addressed by legislation?

Derek Mackay

I appreciate the intervention, but I do not want to give any views today that are wider than the purpose of the bill and further to what I have said already. However, I reiterate that I will consider and reflect on all submissions.

There is a very strong argument—maybe the budget process review group has assisted us with this issue—about the fact that Westminster has the ability to refine tax legislation as appropriate but we do not have that function in the Scottish Parliament. There is an increasingly strong case for the Scottish Parliament having such a function to address certain matters without having to take the legislative route that we otherwise have to go through. That is certainly worthy of consideration.

In the bill, we are taking action on a specific technical issue as a result of engagement on that issue, not least with Murdo Fraser. Given that context, the bill is therefore non-contentious and I hope that it will be supported across the chamber and across the tax community. All other considerations on land and buildings transaction tax will be considered in a timely and appropriate manner as part of our overall approach to the planning and management of devolved taxes.

I look forward to the debate, but I am very curious as to how we will fill the next 40 minutes.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill.

The Presiding Officer

I call Bruce Crawford to speak on behalf of the Finance and Constitution Committee.

16:17  



Bruce Crawford (Stirling) (SNP)

How long do I get, Presiding Officer?

The Presiding Officer

Five minutes, Mr Crawford.

Bruce Crawford

Okay. Thank you.

It is my pleasure to speak as the convener of the Finance and Constitution Committee. I put on record my thanks to my fellow committee members for the constructive manner in which they went about their deliberations on the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill. I also thank the clerks, particularly Alan Hunter, who supported the committee so well during our deliberations. If only other aspects of the committee’s workload were as straightforward to navigate.

On the subject of Dickens’s characters, perhaps on this occasion Derek Mackay is Samuel Pickwick, who is said to have been

“Benevolence personified ... entirely human and credible ... Decent and determined”.

Perhaps he is the most appropriate character from Dickens as far as this bill is concerned. I had better get on now with the rest of my speech.

I highlight by way of background that, following the devolution of certain powers over taxation as a result of the Scotland Act 2012, our predecessor committee scrutinised plans to introduce the land and buildings transaction tax from April 2015. Since the implementation of LBTT, a number of changes have been made to the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Scotland) Act 2013, with perhaps the most significant being the introduction of the additional dwelling supplement in April 2016. That meant that individuals or couples purchasing a second residential property would be liable to pay an additional tax charge. Exemptions were put in place, though, to ensure that such buyers were not inadvertently left out of pocket—for example, by legislating to entitle people to claim a refund where they temporarily owned two dwellings while waiting for their original property to be sold.

However, it became apparent that the legislation had been drafted too tightly, which had the unintended consequence that couples in certain circumstances were treated as a single economic unit when determining whether the supplement should be levied but not when determining whether they should be reimbursed. I know that that issue has been raised with MSPs across the country. To address that anomaly, the Government laid a statutory instrument, which the committee considered and endorsed in June last year. At that time, the cabinet secretary confirmed that it was not possible for the secondary legislation to apply retrospectively, meaning that a small number of couples who had already paid the supplement were unable to claim it back. The cabinet secretary undertook to consider other legislative vehicles to effect the change, and the bill that we are debating today is the direct result of that undertaking.

Although the committee fully supported the policy intentions of a bill that is understandably narrow in scope, stakeholders raised a number of additional issues in written evidence. I will briefly address some of those comments and suggestions.

A recurring point was that the data provided to Revenue Scotland does not allow it to proactively identify taxpayers who are eligible to claim reimbursement of the supplement. The cabinet secretary acknowledged that and explained that the legal world would be well aware of the bill and would raise awareness among clients, while Revenue Scotland would publish information on its website to raise awareness and explain how to go about submitting a claim. However, the cabinet secretary accepted the fair point that attempts should be made to identify eligible taxpayers. The committee therefore invited Revenue Scotland to consider what further steps it would take to identify such people. I am grateful for its considered response, which explains that, although it is not possible to do that, it intends to use a wide range of communications activity to raise awareness of the change.

The committee is also mindful of the potential impact on the overall LBTT tax take of refunds that arise from the bill. Although the impact is likely to be relatively small, we have invited the Government to provide updates on the number of repayment claims that are made and the amounts that are repaid.

I put on the record the committee’s appreciation for the constructive engagement that we have had with the cabinet secretary and his officials in supporting our scrutiny of the bill. I welcome the comments that he made in his opening speech and the contents of his letter of 5 March in response to the committee’s stage 1 report, as well as his letter to the committee today about the group relief consultation announcement, which I think we all welcome.

The committee recommends the general principles of the bill to the Parliament.

16:22  



Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

I start by reminding members of my entry in the register of members’ interests, which shows that I am a member of the Law Society of Scotland.

Following on from the convener of the Finance and Constitution Committee, I fear that we might be in for a contest this afternoon to see who can come up with the Dickens figure whom the cabinet secretary most corresponds to. I give you, Presiding Officer, Mr Micawber from “David Copperfield”, who is described as

“always in debt yet recklessly cheery and blindly optimistic”.

I ask colleagues to beat that if they can. [Laughter.]

On behalf of the Scottish Conservatives, I welcome the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill. The finance secretary knows that I have constituents who were caught in the very circumstances that the bill attempts to redress, and it might be helpful to the Parliament if, without giving their names, I narrate the circumstances of the case as an illustration of why the bill is important.

In the case of my constituents, we had a young couple who had recently married. They lived in a property that the husband had owned prior to the marriage, which was therefore in his sole name. The wife did not own any property. In time, they decided to move to a larger property, which was purchased in their joint names, as is the normal practice. The entry date for the new property was a few weeks prior to the entry date for the sale of the existing one, so there was a short overlap. There is nothing unusual in that. That led to them paying an additional dwelling supplement on the purchase price. If I recall correctly, the sum was about £13,000, which represented a substantial financial commitment. Nevertheless, they fully expected that the sum would be refunded to them in the normal way after the sale of the first property, as they were second home owners only on a short-term and inadvertent basis.

I am sure that members can imagine their horror when they discovered that Revenue Scotland was claiming that the additional dwelling supplement was not repayable in their case. They had never budgeted for an additional £13,000 and had no idea how they would meet that additional charge.

As the cabinet secretary has pointed out, the problem was that, as a result of the way that the original legislation was drafted, only the husband was treated as replacing a main residence. Because the wife did not have her name on the title deeds of the original property, she was not treated as replacing a main residence and therefore, on the strict interpretation of the legislation, ADS could not be reclaimed on the sale of the first property by the husband.

It is clear that such a situation was never the policy intent of the original legislation. ADS was introduced as a revenue-raising measure to produce tax from those buying a second property, or more properties, either for investment purposes or as a holiday home or other residence. It was never intended to be a tax on those who were simply replacing their main place of living. Yet, due to what is essentially an error in the way that the original legislation was drafted, couples such as my constituents were inadvertently caught by it.

I drew my constituents’ case to the finance secretary’s attention, as I am sure that other members did with similar cases, and I am pleased that the Scottish Government acted very swiftly. A statutory instrument was brought in last year to resolve the problem for new purchasers after June 2017. Primary legislation was required to give retrospective relief to those who were caught during the period from the introduction of ADS—1 April 2016—until June 2017, hence we have the bill before us. It is a timely and very welcome bill, and it will be much appreciated by the individuals who are caught in the situation that I have just outlined.

I would like to raise two other minor issues in relation to the bill before us. First, we have to make sure that all those who would benefit from this bill are aware of its passing. I raised that issue with the cabinet secretary when he came to the Finance and Constitution Committee, and indeed the committee convener just referred to it in his opening speech. There is a particular case for Revenue Scotland to engage with the Law Society of Scotland, which will be best placed to be aware, through its member companies, of the cases affected. It can then be ensured that everyone is aware that the legislation has been passed, so that those who are able to reclaim ADS can do so.

The other point relates to separate issues in connection with LBTT, which were raised in evidence to the committee by the Law Society and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland. Adjustments to the LBTT ADS regime would be beneficial in a number of other areas, for example, in relation to the transfer of investment properties to pension funds or in relation to LBTT group relief where share pledges are involved. I welcome the fact that the cabinet secretary has this afternoon published a letter saying that he is prepared to consult on the latter matter, which takes us forward in a very helpful fashion.

The suggestion has also been made that an annual finance bill in the Scottish Parliament could deal with the minor tidying up of matters such as those. It would be very welcome if the Scottish Government were to consider that suggestion.

I reiterate that the Scottish Conservatives will support the bill before us at stage 1 this evening. I hope that it becomes law as quickly as possible, and I know that there are constituents of mine who will be very grateful if it does.

16:28  



James Kelly (Glasgow) (Lab)

There have been a number of heated debates and exchanges over the past of couple months, mainly over the budget and certainly between me and Mr Mackay. I want to make clear at the outset of this debate that I fully support the proposals that have been brought forward on the land and buildings transaction tax. I commend Mr Mackay for his approach in listening to stakeholders and to the issues that were raised by committee members—principally Murdo Fraser—and for bringing forward corrective action. It is very welcome.

The purpose of the land and buildings transaction tax was to levy a tax on those who purchase property. In the original legislation, the approach was to treat couples, including those in civil partnerships or who are cohabiting, as one domestic unit, in order to seek to ensure that people were not avoiding tax. That seemed a reasonable approach.

However, as other members have outlined, if people sought to claim relief from the ADS where they had purchased a property and sold one in the previous 18 months, they were caught by inconsistent treatment, which is against the principles of fair taxation. In addition to the changes that were introduced by order last year, the bill addresses, retrospectively, the position of those who were caught by the policy prior to May 2017, which, again, seems a reasonable approach. I am encouraged by the fact that the bill has been well supported by the stakeholders who engage on this issue, including the Law Society of Scotland and those who participate in the relevant forum.

The financial memorandum states that the bill will have a financial impact of between £655,000 and £1.55 million. Although that is a relatively small amount as regards the overall budget, it will have an impact on it and it will be interesting to learn from the cabinet secretary where that will be drawn from.

Some of the responses that were made to the consultation on the bill introduced other issues relating to how we, as a Parliament, might better manage taxation. It is right to look at such issues—particularly given that, as we now have increased tax powers, more such technical issues might come up and require to be tidied up. It seems reasonable to look at the idea of an annual taxation bill through which we can tidy up any unintended consequences.

The measure that we are debating today is a necessary one. I commend the work that has been done by the Finance and Constitution Committee’s members, witnesses and clerks. I also commend the cabinet secretary for introducing appropriate legislation to correct the loophole and ensure that those who have been caught unfairly by the way in which the original legislation was drafted can seek appropriate redress.

The Presiding Officer

We move to the open debate.

16:32  



Willie Coffey (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)

The title of the bill may prove to be almost as long as the time that is taken to consider and approve it. As the cabinet secretary, the convener and members have reminded us, the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill seeks to correct an unintended consequence of the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Scotland) Act 2013.

When LBTT tax replaced SDLT in Scotland in 2015, a percentage of the value of the house, which varies depending on that value, became payable in tax. In 2016, the ADS came in, and its purpose was to charge an additional 3 per cent of the value of the house if it was a second home. The intention was that the ADS would apply if one spouse owned an existing home and their spouse bought a second home, but that it would not apply if the buyer was replacing their original home. Of course, the unintended consequence was that certain couples who bought another house, replacing their original home, were still being charged the ADS because the name of only one spouse was on the title to the first house. That was not the policy intention behind the ADS. It is hugely important that, as a Parliament, we listen when well-meaning action that we take can be improved and that we act accordingly. The bill simply seeks to correct that problem and to allow a retrospective claim to be made for the return of the ADS in such cases.

The financial memorandum that accompanies this short bill estimates a likely increase of somewhere between 2 and 5 per cent in the number of joint buyers intending to claim back the tax, provided, of course, that they are able to dispose of the original property within 18 months. On average, the value of each ADS transaction is thought to be around £8,000. As James Kelly pointed out a moment ago, the overall cost is estimated to be somewhere between £600,000 and £1.5 million, which I understand is to be met from within existing resources. The bill will not therefore have a huge impact on the Scottish budget. No doubt, the measure will be welcomed by those who are affected by it.

In terms of the overall impact of the land and buildings transaction tax and its performance, more than 90 per cent of home buyers pay less tax or no tax at all compared with the situation under the predecessor stamp duty land tax. Further, it has helped to keep more than 25,000 houses out of tax altogether by setting a threshold of £145,000, which means that there is no charge until that figure is reached.

We ought to welcome the progress that has been made through the LBTT as it involves home buyers paying a fairer amount of tax and gives them a helping hand by saving them money. At the upper end of the market, data from Revenue Scotland tells us that house sales are continuing to rise annually by about 18 per cent, and the Scottish Government is committed to monitoring the performance of the tax across all the bands. I note the cabinet secretary’s announcement that the Government intends to consult on group relief, which is an issue that was raised by quite a number of stakeholders.

The bill is a welcome correction to an unforeseen effect that unintentionally but unfairly taxed some house purchasers. It addresses that and will allow those house buyers to reclaim the tax that they paid on the purchase of their house. I support the Scottish Government’s motion.

16:36  



Bill Bowman (North East Scotland) (Con)

I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests with respect to my membership of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. I also warn members that my speech will contain some repetition of what others have said.

I thank the cabinet secretary for bringing the bill forward—it is both welcome and necessary. An anomaly in relation to the additional dwelling supplement meant that it was chargeable when spouses, civil partners and cohabitants jointly replaced a home that was owned by just one of them. It is right that we now apply last year’s action to end that anomaly retroactively.

I echo Murdo Fraser’s point regarding advertising the change. I appreciate that Revenue Scotland cannot identify those affected and will advertise the change on its website. However, that does not seem wholly sufficient. Can the cabinet secretary clarify whether any third parties, such as professional bodies or estate agencies, have been contacted in relation to notifying the public of the change?

As welcome as the latest fix is, it only scratches the surface. The Law Society of Scotland has highlighted several additional anomalies with the ADS in its submission to the Finance and Constitution Committee. One of those additional anomalies relates to couples who are separating. In situations in which one partner goes on to buy a new home, relief is not available. Equally, there is no relief for couples who were not previously living together prior to purchasing a joint property. Neither situation seems fair, and those who are caught up in such cases might feel that they are being penalised for circumstances that may be outside their control. Nor is it fair that the SNP’s land and buildings transaction tax contains no dependent dwelling exemption, as stamp duty land tax does in the rest of the United Kingdom. It is more than reasonable to consider that the purchase of a property with another connected to it should be considered as an overall single transaction rather than as the purchase of an additional residence.

We should not address such issues in isolation. The bill is welcome, but it is narrow and cumbersome. A lot of time and effort has gone into ending one relatively small, though significant, anomaly in a specific aspect of one particular tax—a case of deficient SNP legislation leading to a deficient fix, leading to yet another fix. A new approach is needed, and I think that the cabinet secretary alluded to that in his speech.

Derek Mackay

Is it not fair to reflect on the fact that the Parliament as a whole passed the legislation, and to acknowledge that the right thing for the Government to do is to engage with parliamentarians and stakeholders and, where possible, remedy any issues that require to be remedied? For the Government to have taken any other course of action would have meant that there would be no satisfactory resolution for those who have been caught up by the issue. The matter is not necessarily one of parliamentary fault. Whether it is a matter of legal interpretation, enforcement or whatever, surely the Parliament is doing the right thing.

Bill Bowman

The Parliament is doing the right thing, but there are issues around the method used in doing the right thing—that is what I am going to talk about.

Revenue Scotland should play a more prominent role in administrative policy changes, mirroring the relationship between HM Treasury and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

The introduction of an annual finance bill would give the Parliament a formal opportunity to review and revise tax policy, which is a position that is backed by respected bodies such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, the Chartered Institute of Taxation, the Scottish Property Federation and the Law Society of Scotland.

Surely the finance secretary would prefer his legacy—when the time comes for a legacy, that is—to be that of a reforming finance secretary. The very issue that we debate today demonstrates the need for a formalised review process. As the Scottish Property Federation noted, there was

“very little opportunity for detailed scrutiny”

of the legislation on the additional dwelling supplement. This is perhaps a timely reminder for SNP members of the dangers of rushing legislation through the Parliament, only for that legislation to come back and hit them later. An annual finance bill would signal that the Parliament is serious about using its evolving tax powers in a considered and fair manner. The Parliament is maturing, and its approach to tax policy must mature, too.

When we take decisions on how much of people’s hard-earned money to collect from them and on how we spend it, people must have confidence in our decisions. The public whom we serve deserve no less.

16:40  



Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab)

I support the bill. Like Bill Bowman, I am likely to repeat what other members have said.

The cabinet secretary and others have set out the details of what the bill will achieve. It is unusual to introduce and pass retrospective legislation but, in this case, it is absolutely the right thing to do. The bill corrects an anomaly and an unintended unfairness that was introduced by the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2016. At the time, the Scottish Government’s intention was clear: it wanted to levy an additional tax on those who purchased a property in Scotland and who already owned another property. Rightly, the Scottish Government recognised that a situation can often arise in the purchase of a property whereby an individual or a couple become, for a short period, the owner or owners of two properties. That is why, as has been said, a period of grace of up to 18 months was introduced, in which, if the person or couple purchasing a second property then disposed of their first property, they were able to reclaim the additional amount of LBTT that had been paid.

However, as other members have said, it has become clear that, in trying to ensure that married couples, civil partners and cohabitants do not move property between individuals for tax avoidance purposes, the anomaly or unintended consequence to which I previously referred has been created. The Parliament has legislated for a situation whereby spouses, civil partners and cohabitants are liable—as a single purchaser would be—for the additional taxation when jointly buying a home to replace a home that was owned by only one of them. As other members have said, such people were subject to the additional dwelling supplement if only one name was listed on the deeds. However, unlike a single person or a couple who were both listed as owners of the original property, those who were not listed as owners of the original property but were listed as joint owners of the new property not only became liable for the additional tax but, unfairly, could not reclaim that tax if the original property was disposed of within 18 months. It is only fair, therefore, not just to address that anomaly for all future purchases but to compensate those who have been unfairly charged since the ADS was introduced.

Everyone accepts that the easiest way to address such anomalies is by the use of secondary legislation. Unfortunately, retrospective legislation cannot be effected by secondary legislation unless there is a specific expressed power, which, in this case, does not exist—hence the bill, which has cross-party support and the support of key stakeholders. Although I support the bill, I will highlight wider concerns that were brought to the attention of the committee by those key stakeholders. As we have heard, the Law Society of Scotland has highlighted that the bill will not address other changes to LBTT that it believes are urgently required. I accept that there is no opportunity to do that here, but I hope that the cabinet secretary will reflect on what the Law Society has said and come back to the Parliament with suggestions about how that can be looked at in the future.

I have referred to anomalies and unintended consequences, and it is worth reflecting on another relevant issue that was raised by the Chartered Institute of Taxation, the Law Society, the Scottish Property Federation and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, which is that there should be a way of addressing technical issues that occur in our new devolved tax system. As James Kelly and others have said, the idea of an annual Scottish finance or tax bill is a good one; I therefore ask the cabinet secretary for a commitment that the Scottish Government will fully consider that.

If the Parliament decides that retrospective legislation is needed to address an anomaly, it would be pointless if the intended beneficiaries of that legislative change were unaware of their entitlement to claim a refund. I accept arguments against engaging in an expensive publicity exercise, but I hope that Revenue Scotland can make detailed proposals about how those who are affected will be identified and notified. As has been said, the legal world and the Law Society have an important role to play. Those who are affected will inevitably have instructed a solicitor, so I suggest that the Law Society be encouraged to encourage its members to identify clients who fit the relevant profile in the identified period and to contact those clients to make them aware that there has been a change that could benefit them.

Although the bill is unusual in that it proposes to have a retrospective impact, it is straightforward, has unanimous support and will address a small but significant unfairness. I therefore support the committee’s recommendation that the bill be supported.

16:45  



Ivan McKee (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)

I draw members’ attention to my entry in the register of members’ interests with respect to rental of a property.

I will keep my speech short and give you some time back, Presiding Officer, at the risk of repeating what everyone has said up to now in what has been an extremely consensual debate. The tone of the debate makes a welcome change and provides a bit of a respite from the usual debates in this place that involve matters financial and constitutional, which are more akin to multidimensional trench warfare. It is nice to get the equivalent of a break in which to go and play football in the snow before hostilities resume again tomorrow with the debate in committee on the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill.

The Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill tidies up an anomaly with respect to retrospective relief. The original legislation provided, in relation to the additional dwelling supplement, that couples be treated as one economic unit to avoid the potential for tax avoidance by individuals moving property between themselves. It clearly did that, but it also created a specific anomaly whereby, if the old property was in the name of one of the individuals and the new property was in both names, they both fell liable for the tax, in effect being treated as one economic unit when the ADS was payable but not when the ADS was being repaid. I welcome the fact that the Government has listened to the concerns that have been raised and that the cabinet secretary has introduced the bill to address that anomaly.

Estimates vary as to the total amount of tax that will be reclaimed, as Mr Kelly mentioned, but the figure will come to between £650,000 and £1.5 million. Although that is not a significant sum in the scope of the Government’s finances, we could be talking about a significant amount of money for the individuals concerned, as Mr Fraser said, and they will be glad to see it coming back to them.

Other issues have been raised during consideration of the bill. It is good to see that the cabinet secretary is giving group relief some consideration, with the opening of a consultation on that matter, and I hope that other anomalies that have been raised by the Law Society will get some review as well.

Bruce Crawford

Does Mr McKee agree that, with regard to an annual finance or tax bill, perhaps Bill Bowman should go off and read the report of the budget process review group, which covered that area quite extensively? Indeed, it recommended to the Government that a finance bill should be examined and that any recommendations should be brought forward by the end of the current session of Parliament. The cabinet secretary responded quite positively to that suggestion.

Ivan McKee

That is exactly the point that I was going to raise next. We should welcome consideration of a finance bill and see whether that is possible. It is a shame that Mr Bowman did not get the memo about the suspension of hostilities before making his earlier remarks.

It is great that the Government has listened to people’s concerns about the issue and taken them on board, and that it has introduced a bill to make the required changes effective. The Finance and Constitution Committee in its entirety welcomes the bill and has given consensual support for it, and we will be glad to see the bill passed in due course.

16:49  



James Kelly

Bill Bowman, Neil Bibby and Ivan McKee all expressed concern that they might be repeating some of the points that others had made, and they must feel sympathy for those of us who have to speak twice in the debate, as there is a real danger that we could be appearing on UK Gold soon.

There has been a strong element of consensus in the debate, which is right because the anomaly in the original legislation will be corrected by the proposed legislation that the cabinet secretary has introduced. If the bill is passed, those who have been unfairly affected will be able to claim appropriate retrospective relief.

Members have raised issues that have been brought up in responses from the Law Society and other organisations about extending the areas that are covered by the legislation in terms of group relief. Bill Bowman gave the example of couples who have separated, and that situation should be seriously looked at.

However, there should be an element of caution. Ultimately, it is a tax-raising measure, and tax has to be raised fairly. If there is unfairness in the system, I expect that to be ironed out. Nevertheless, we do not want to get into a situation in which we build in so many exemptions that we lose the effectiveness of the tax-raising measure. It must contribute to the budget—everyone feels strongly about that, no matter what their point of view on it.

In committee, Murdo Fraser raised the issue of the awareness campaign. I appreciate that it is difficult because, according to the analysis, the measure will potentially affect between 76 and 189 people, which is a small number. I understand the cabinet secretary’s caution about Revenue Scotland or any other organisation launching a major advertising campaign. What is needed is some innovation. A lot of the bodies will know particular individuals who might be affected and they can communicate with them.

Social media could also be skilfully used. Those of us who use social media as part of our political campaigning are well aware that, by putting a small bit of money into, for example, advertising on Facebook, we can reach a wide audience. That might be something for Revenue Scotland to look at.

The other main point from the debate, which I raised in my earlier speech and which Neil Bibby underlined, is the need for an annual finance bill to deal with technical tax changes. That makes good sense.

Overall, the debate has provided a consensual end to the afternoon, even if the start was not consensual. Members on the Labour benches support the Government’s approach on this.

16:52  



Alexander Burnett (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)

I thank my fellow committee members for the constructive conversations that we have had on the bill, and I look forward to continuing our work as we scrutinise this piece of legislation. In addition, I echo the thanks of our convener to our clerks and to those who have submitted evidence to the Finance and Constitution Committee.

I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests, particularly with regard to my businesses that deal with the purchasing and leasing of residential properties and businesses, which are impacted by LBTT.

The Scottish Conservatives agree with the bill and welcome its introduction at stage 1. As many members have pointed out, the need for the bill is the consequence—and another example—of an SNP Government pushing through bad legislation that requires further legislation to correct it. The irony, as we argue over the timings that have been proposed by the SNP for the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill, makes it particularly topical.

From the evidence that has been taken, it appears that the bill will not be the final piece of correcting legislation that is required. As my colleague Murdo Fraser noted, the proposed legislation is required to correct the injustice that has been done to many constituents who were simply starting a home together. As has been pointed out, many experts noted, during discussions on the original legislation, that they had grave concerns over its impact on the housing market as well as its other potential consequences.

Those concerns have been borne out by the facts. The estate agent Aberdein Considine’s analysis last December showed that selling prices in Glasgow’s east end had risen by 20 per cent in the previous quarter. The Times reported last Friday that

“first-time buyers without extra capital are being consistently outbid by”

buy-to-let

“investors from China”

and the middle east. I do not want to deter international investment, but legislation that the Scottish Government introduces should not be to the detriment of our own residents who look to make a life and home of their own.

The bill also affords the opportunity to consider the wider issues that we face with LBTT. The Law Society noted that

“there will continue to be regular issues that arise in relation to the implementation of devolved taxes”.

Therefore, it encourages Revenue Scotland and the Scottish Government to work together in a policy partnership to ensure that the Scottish tax system is responsive and fit for purpose as it develops.

As the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland states, there is a good case to be made for care and maintenance measures in the existing tax law so that, if stakeholders find that parts of the legislation do not work as intended, there is an opportunity to revisit the law without the need for primary legislation.

I note and welcome the letter that the cabinet secretary sent to the committee shortly before the debate, introducing a consultation on group reliefs. I hope that he will continue to be as receptive on other issues.

We have a duty to pass bills that work effectively and that benefit our constituents to the maximum effect the first time round. Therefore, although we support the consensus in passing the bill to the next stage, I ask the cabinet secretary to cover in his closing speech his response to the further amendments to the land and buildings transaction tax legislation that the Law Society and others have proposed.

The Presiding Officer

I call the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution to conclude the debate.

16:56  



Derek Mackay

Do I have until about 5 o’clock, Presiding Officer?

The Presiding Officer

Yes.

Derek Mackay

Thank you very much. I will conclude the debate briefly by answering a number of points that have been raised.

I imagine that, of all the devolved taxes, the scale of the financial issue that we are discussing is not such that it would give me any cause for concern.

In terms of raising awareness of the issue, although Revenue Scotland cannot proactively pursue the people whom it thinks might be eligible for the refund, solicitors and others can proactively go back to their clients and, I hope, help people to get redress. I suppose that, like many MSPs, Murdo Fraser will enjoy writing a letter to constituents to say, “See that £13,000 bill that you were taxed with? Because of the consensus in Parliament, you are now no longer liable for it and can claim it back.” What a dream it is for a Tory to write such a letter! In fact, any member who has had such a case can write back in those terms; MSPs have a responsibility as well.

In all seriousness, I appreciate the tone of the debate, the constructive suggestions and the support for the action that will be taken to ensure that we address the issue. Having addressed it through the order, we will also be able to address it retrospectively through the bill.

I do not often hear from James Kelly the words “I commend Derek Mackay”, but I liked that and hope that we can hear more of that in future. On that note, if there is parliamentary consensus that we require an annual finance bill to address some of the month-to-month or year-to-year finance issues, that is welcome. Bruce Crawford, the convener of the Finance and Constitution Committee, is absolutely right that that was a recommendation of the budget process review group. I certainly welcome that, and it is further welcome that parties around the chamber are agreed on that point. That includes the mild-mannered Bill Bowman.

Specific issues were raised on why the bill does not capture every issue that was raised through the consultation. We must be careful on tax avoidance—deliberate behaviours to avoid paying tax. In whatever we do, we engage and consult, but there was a clear reason to proceed with the bill as a focused piece of legislation to address an anomaly.

Parliament gave the introduction of the tax due attention at the time but, sometimes, there are unforeseen consequences of legislation, its interpretation and its enactment. Parliament should, of course, have the right to return to that and address it. Opposition parties have been mature enough to welcome the remedies that have been found so swiftly, consensually and constructively and I appreciate the response from the committee and stakeholders on the bill. We will return to the other matters that have been raised through the consultation.

The financial consequences have been set out. The number of people who are affected is quite small, but the issue is significant for those people, which is why we are remedying it today. I look forward to doing so in a few seconds’ time. This is only stage 1; I look forward to the further stages of the debate, and the recommendation, which has cross-party appeal, to have yet another finance debate in the Scottish Parliament following the budget debates over the course of the past few months.

Vote at Stage 1

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Vote at Stage 1 transcript

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

The first question is, that motion S5M-10794, in the name of Derek Mackay, on the draft Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2018, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Presiding Officer

There will be a division.

For

Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Swinney, John (Perthshire North) (SNP)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Scott, Tavish (Shetland Islands) (LD)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Russell, Michael (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Mackay, Derek (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Hyslop, Fiona (Linlithgow) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Harris, Alison (Central Scotland) (Con)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Allan, Dr Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)

Against

Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Dugdale, Kezia (Lothian) (Lab)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

The Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 93, Against 23, Abstentions 0.

Motion agreed to,

That the Parliament agrees that the Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2018 [draft] be approved.

The Presiding Officer

The next question is, that motion S5M-10795, in the name of Derek Mackay, on the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill at stage 1, be agreed to.

Motion agreed to,

That the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill.

The Presiding Officer

The next question is, that motion S5M-10654, in the name of Derek Mackay, on a Financial Resolution for the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill, be agreed to.

Motion agreed to,

That the Parliament, for the purposes of any Act of the Scottish Parliament resulting from the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill, agrees to any expenditure of a kind referred to in Rule 9.12.3(b) of the Parliament’s Standing Orders arising in consequence of the Act.

The Presiding Officer

The final question is, that motion S5M-10844, in the name of Joe FitzPatrick, on stage 2 proceedings on the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill, be agreed to.

Motion agreed to,

That the Parliament agrees, further to its resolution on 1 March 2018 to treat the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill as an Emergency Bill, to suspend the first sentence in Rule 9.21.6 for the purposes of stage 2 consideration of the bill and that stage 2 will be taken by the Finance and Constitution Committee.

MSPs agreed that this Bill could continue

Stage 2 - Changes to detail 

MSPs can propose changes to the Bill. The changes are considered and then voted on by the committee.

Changes to the Bill

MSPs can propose changes to a Bill  these are called 'amendments'. The changes are considered then voted on by the lead committee.

The lists of proposed changes are known as a 'marshalled list'. There's a separate list for each week that the committee is looking at proposed changes.

The 'groupings' document groups amendments together based on their subject matter. It shows the order in which the amendments will be debated by the committee and in the Chamber. This is to avoid repetition in the debates.

How is it decided whether the changes go into the Bill?

When MSPs want to make a change to a Bill, they propose an 'amendment'. This sets out the changes they want to make to a specific part of the Bill.

The group of MSPs that is examining the Bill (lead committee) votes on whether it thinks each amendment should be accepted or not.

Depending on the number of amendments, this can be done during one or more meetings.

First meeting on amendments

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First meeting on amendments transcript

The Convener

The final piece of business on our agenda today is evidence on the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill at stage 1 from Derek Mackay, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution. The cabinet secretary is joined by officials: Ewan Cameron-Nielsen, from the finance directorate, and John St Clair, the senior principal legal officer in the Scottish Government. Members have copies of all the written evidence that has been received, along with a SPICe briefing. Before we go to questions, I invite the cabinet secretary to make an opening statement.

Derek Mackay

Thank you, convener. The bill aims to give retrospective effect to an order that was considered by the committee in June 2017. That order and the bill consider the treatment of economic units—the term that is given to married couples, civil partners and cohabitants, and those who are living as if they are a married couple under the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2016. In 2016, the additional dwelling supplement—a 3 per cent additional rate of tax—was introduced. That supplement applies when, on the effective date of a transaction, a buyer owns more than one dwelling and they are not replacing a main residence. In the context of the legislation, replacing a main residence means selling the previous main residence and buying a new main residence.

It is the Scottish Government’s intention that, when the additional dwelling supplement is paid, it can be reclaimed when a main residence is being replaced and the sale of the previous main residence occurs within 18 months of the purchase of what then becomes the current main residence. As ADS has been in operation, it has become clear that, in practice, the legislation has not worked as it was intended to in relation to economic units and the ability to reclaim the tax that is paid after a former main residence has been sold. That has been corrected for all transactions occurring after the order came into force, in June 2017.

Members of this committee and stakeholders highlighted a desire to secure retrospectivity for the relief in respect of the qualifying couples. The Scottish Government agrees with that view and has, therefore, brought forward primary legislation for your consideration to enable the relief to apply retrospectively. That will mean that qualifying buyers will be able to reclaim a payment of ADS when they have had to pay the additional amount despite having disposed of the previous main residence in the 18 months prior to the effective date or when they would not otherwise be able to reclaim the additional amount, having disposed of their previous main residence in the 18 months after the effective date.

I look forward to hearing the committee’s views on the matter.

The Convener

Thank you, cabinet secretary. Ivan McKee has a question about groups.

Ivan McKee

Cabinet secretary, you will have seen that, in some of the submissions that we have received, there are comments from the Law Society of Scotland and others about other changes that they want to see to the LBTT regime. There are also some comments on the process whereby Revenue Scotland and the Government interacted and were involved in reviewing and making changes as required. I do not know whether you have had a chance to look at those submissions. Do you have any comments to make on any of those areas?

Derek Mackay

I am aware of some of those issues, but I want to be clear that the scope of the bill is really tight—it just gives effect to what we know we need to fix. The scope is tight, the purpose is clear and that is what I want to achieve.

Other people have engaged in other matters relating to LBTT, and there are wider issues. It would be nice to have a finance bill like the one at Westminster that is able to do a lot of tidying up when there might be unintended consequences and anomalies or when refinement might be required. That would be a great place for such issues to be addressed in the future. However, issues such as the group shares issue and other matters are not part of this bill. I think I have a remedy that would help with that specific issue, but I will write to the committee before I announce anything—I will not prejudice or preview that now.

There are other matters that are not relevant to the purpose of this piece of legislation but that I will reconsider in the light of the engagement that we have had over the last wee while.

Ivan McKee

Thanks very much.

Murdo Fraser

I remind members of my interest as a member of the Law Society of Scotland.

Before I ask my question, I thank the cabinet secretary for bringing the bill forward. He will recall that I wrote to him on the issue some time ago, raising a matter that involved constituents of mine who were caught by this particular loophole. I am delighted that the cabinet secretary has acted on that.

Derek Mackay

It is terrifying what we can do when we work together.

Murdo Fraser

Isn’t it marvellous? We should do more of it, cabinet secretary.

The Convener

Hear, hear.

Murdo Fraser

My question relates to a comment that was made by the Law Society in the evidence it has submitted to the committee. The society welcomes the bill as it is drafted, but it makes the point—which I think is quite an important one—that the measure will require to be given wide publicity once the bill is enacted to ensure that the taxpayers who have been caught out are aware of the change in the law and that, if they have paid ADS, they are able to reclaim that. How does the Scottish Government propose to publicise the legislation, assuming that Parliament passes it?

Derek Mackay

I am not sure that a mass publicity campaign would be the most proportionate, effective or targeted intervention, whereas Revenue Scotland will have a very clear function. It has been aware of our desire to remedy the situation, so I think that we will engage with Revenue Scotland and see how it approaches it.

I am happy to have Revenue Scotland engage with the committee—it is not for me to do so—if the legislation is successfully passed, explaining how it will contact people who are entitled to reclaim the money. I am sure that constituency members will also get back positively to cases that have been raised.

We have estimates of the cost and of how many people the bill should affect—that is all in the financial memorandum. It is a fair point that we must try to identify them. In any event, the legal world will be well aware of the bill and will raise publicity, but it is a good question for Revenue Scotland.

The Convener

I think that Ivan McKee still has a quick question.

Ivan McKee

Just for the sake of completeness, I wanted to refer on the record to my entry in the register of members’ interests with respect to residential property.

The Convener

No other committee member has identified that they wish to ask a question at this stage. Thank you, cabinet secretary. The clerks will now produce a report for the stage 1 process.

Meeting closed at 11:49.  



Stage 3 - Final amendments and vote

MSPs can propose further amendments to the Bill and then vote on each of these. Finally, they vote on whether the Bill should become law

Final debate on the Bill

Once they've debated the amendments, the MSPs discuss the final version of the Bill.

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Final debate transcript

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame)

The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-12264, in the name of Derek Mackay, on stage 3 of the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) (Bill).

As members will be aware, at this point in the proceedings, the Presiding Officer is required under the standing orders to decide whether, in his view, any provision of the bill relates to a protected subject matter—that is, whether it modifies the electoral system and franchise for Scottish Parliament elections. The Presiding Officer has decided that no provision of this bill relates to a protected subject matter and that therefore it does not require a super-majority to be passed at stage 3.

I call Derek Mackay, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution, to speak to and move the motion.

14:59  



The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution (Derek Mackay)

I am pleased to open this stage 3 debate on the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill. I thank the Finance and Constitution Committee for its detailed scrutiny of the bill and the members of the Scottish Parliament who set out their views during the stage 1 debate in March. Members are now familiar with the background to the bill and its intent to give retrospective effect to amendments that were made by the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Additional Amount-Second Homes Main Residence Relief) (Scotland) Order 2017.

The Scottish Government’s approach to taxation is founded on, among other things, effective engagement and partnership with stakeholders. As a consequence of that engagement and a willingness to listen to the concerns of taxpayers and their representatives, we have introduced the bill. It addresses an unintended consequence in regard to the treatment of married couples, spouses and cohabitants under the additional dwelling supplement—ADS—and will deliver equity of treatment regardless of the date when joint buyers bought a home. Therefore, it is deliberately narrow in focus and scope, in that it serves only to give retrospective effect to the provisions of the 2017 order.

Members will remember that we had a notably consensual debate at stage 1 and that the Parliament has, so far, provided unanimous support for the bill. Unusually for a bill, no stage 3 amendments have been lodged in advance of the debate. Indeed, no amendments were lodged at stage 2 either. That reflects the narrow and specific scope of the bill. Therefore, I will focus my remarks on the recommendations that are set out in the Finance and Constitution Committee’s stage 1 report.

The committee’s first recommendation invited the Scottish Government to provide annual updates on the numbers of repayment claims made and the amounts repaid. I understand that Revenue Scotland has confirmed that it intends to publish figures on repayments as a result of the implementation of the bill and following the first year of its operation. That will be dependent on the information that is provided by taxpayers and agents and will be subject to Revenue Scotland’s existing policy on statistical publications.

The committee’s second recommendation was addressed principally to Revenue Scotland and invited it to consider further what steps it could take to identify taxpayers who might be eligible to claim a repayment of tax as a result of the bill. The chief executive of Revenue Scotland has written to the convener of the committee setting out that, although, as the committee noted, eligible taxpayers cannot be identified directly, Revenue Scotland has been taking, and continues to take, steps to raise awareness among taxpayers and agents using a wide range of communications activity.

The committee also invited the Scottish Government to confirm what steps it intends to take in response to the issues raised in the written evidence that were outwith the scope of the bill. A number of suggestions highlighted additional asks on the application of the additional dwelling supplement. I do not have any plans to introduce further changes to the supplement at this time, but I have noted the concerns that have been raised and will give them detailed consideration.

On the other asks, I am pleased to say that, following consideration of consultation responses, the Scottish Government today introduced legislation to Parliament to address the concerns that were raised on the application of group relief in a specific scenario and to provide for first-time buyer relief from the land and buildings transaction tax. As members might be aware, I have also launched a consultation seeking evidence to support our consideration of stakeholder asks that relate to property investment reliefs. Other issues will be considered as part of the Scottish Government’s overall approach to devolved tax management and planning.

Building on the budget process review group’s report, I am, of course, committed to working with the Parliament to consider the points that have been raised on the case for developing a new approach to technical tax legislation, such as the changes that are addressed in this bill. However, the focus of the debate is on the bill and ensuring that all the affected couples can reclaim repayment of the supplement where they have genuinely replaced their main residence. The number of affected couples might be relatively small, but I am clear that the resolution of the issue is a matter of great importance for each and every one of them.

I welcome the Parliament’s unanimous support and members’ constructive engagement on their cases and in the progress of the bill, which I am sure will continue this afternoon.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees that the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill be passed.

15:04  



Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

The Scottish Conservatives warmly welcome the bill that is before us this afternoon. There are no amendments at stage 3; indeed, there were no amendments at stage 2, which I think was probably the shortest stage 2 in committee that I can remember. We are at the stage in proceedings at which there is very little new to say, and I do not intend to take up too much of the chamber’s time this afternoon rehearsing arguments that we have all heard before. I am sure that, given the sunshine, all members will welcome the opportunity to finish a little bit earlier this afternoon—not least the cabinet secretary, given that it appears that he now has an allotment to tend.

I set out in the stage 1 debate that this bill was necessary to correct an oversight in the original Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Scotland) Act 2013. That had led to a situation in which couples were being charged an additional dwelling supplement in the scenario where only one of them had their name on a property that was being sold.

I had a case of constituents who were caught by that and who ended up with an unexpected bill of around £13,000, which they had not budgeted for. As members might expect, that caused the family a great deal of concern and distress.

I am pleased at the speed with which the Scottish Government has moved to correct that error. The bill that is before us today, which brings into retrospective effect the change already made for new transactions, is the final piece in the jigsaw in ensuring that that is done. That will come as a great relief to my constituents who were affected and others across the country who have been inadvertently caught by what was an oversight in the original legislation.

The one related issue that I would raise, to which the cabinet secretary has already referred, is group relief. That relates to a situation where land transactions occur within companies in the same group or where a share pledge or similar arrangement is in place. The cabinet secretary has already spoken on that issue. Indeed, the Scottish Government recently consulted on proposed secondary legislation to amend schedule 10 to the Land and Buildings Transactions Tax (Scotland) Act 2013 to ensure that group relief would be applied. Transactions of that nature are a normal and commonplace part of commercial dealings and share pledges are usual where bank lending occurs.

Group relief has been in place in England and Wales and there have been concerns in the Scottish business community that not having it in Scotland puts Scottish business at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to borrowing and commercial operations. If the Scottish Government is making progress on that issue, as the cabinet secretary has indicated, that is very welcome and it will correct another anomaly. The remaining issue is whether such relief would apply retrospectively to ensure that, just as in the case of the bill that is before us this afternoon, no one loses out because of an inadvertent oversight in the preparation of the original legislation. I hope that the cabinet secretary will reflect on that.

I do not think that there is any point in my detaining the chamber any longer on these issues. I am pleased to confirm that the Scottish Conservatives will support the bill and will be voting for it at decision time, which will hopefully be not many minutes from now. Like other members, I have constituents who will very much welcome the bill being on the statute book.

15:08  



James Kelly (Glasgow) (Lab)

It is always a delight to take part in a consensual debate with the cabinet secretary and Mr Fraser. Scottish Labour supports the introduction and the passage of the bill, which we hope will happen shortly and which will alter the anomalies in relation to the additional dwelling supplement for land and buildings transaction tax.

The issue that has come to light is that, where there is an additional dwelling supplement, normally there is a 3 per cent surcharge. If the original property is sold within 18 months, it is subject to a relief. The anomaly that has been highlighted, principally by Mr Fraser, is that where couples are married, cohabiting or living in a civil partnership, they were not liable to claim that relief. Clearly, that is unfair and it is against the principles of taxation, which the cabinet secretary has spoken about at length at the Finance and Constitution Committee. It is right that Parliament takes steps to address that anomaly.

The proceedings were consensual as we moved through stages 1 and 2, and I am sure that that consensus will continue. The fact that there are no stage 3 amendments emphasises not just the narrow scope of the bill but the broad agreement across the Parliament on how to address the issues.

I know that the land and buildings transaction tax forum, people who are well engaged in the use of tax and other stakeholders have been unanimously supportive of the proposed change, which is very welcome.

There are two issues that we need to be aware of going forward. As the cabinet secretary has said, it is important that we raise awareness of the change, so that those people who are eligible to claim relief are able to do so and do not end up being unfairly financially penalised. I welcome the fact that Revenue Scotland is raising awareness through its forums and networks.

The other point to bear in mind is the impact that the change will have on the budget, which the financial memorandum said will be between £625,000 and £1.555 million. Although that is a small amount in relation to the large scale of the Scottish budget, it is important to monitor the situation in case the amounts vary and there are impacts on other budget lines.

Scottish Labour very much welcomes the change and the way in which Parliament and the cabinet secretary have considered and acted on the issue. We will be happy to support the change at decision time, which is no doubt fast approaching.

15:11  



Patrick Harvie (Glasgow) (Green)

I, too, thank my fellow committee members and the people who have supported the committee’s work in scrutinising the bill. What a rare treat it is to see the output of a matter that has been considered by the Finance and Constitution Committee not giving rise to immense acrimonious ideological disagreement on points of constitution or taxation policy.

As others have said, the bill is a relatively minor and straightforward correction of an aspect of how the LBTT operates, so I am sure that everyone will vote in support of the bill.

The cabinet secretary knows that the Greens are not the world’s greatest fans of the LBTT. It is a modest improvement on what went before, but it captures only a tiny proportion of the unearned asset wealth that is stored up in housing after significant increases in property values. We consider that a modern, progressive, reformed and up-to-date property tax needs to play an important part of our overall tax policy. The LBTT applies only to transactions, so it does not achieve that. As I have said, it is a small step forward from what went before, but it does not resolve the on-going need to look at property taxation more widely.

Secondly, the important recognition that couples should be treated equally, regardless of marriage, civil partnership or cohabitation status, is an important signal that we respect the equality of all families, but that has not been achieved in relation to, for example, what Westminster calls the married couple’s allowance. It is important that all families be treated equally in that regard.

Finally, I draw attention, as I think others will do in the future, to the evidence that we heard from the Chartered Institute of Taxation and others, which suggests that it is not unusual or uncommon for taxation measures to give rise to unintended consequences. That is an additional argument for a future finance bill being part of the way in which we undertake our work—a finance bill could embody significant matters of policy on taxation, as well as correcting previous unintended consequences or making minor adjustments that are needed. I hope that the minister remains open to considering that, as the way forward.

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

We move to the open debate. Ivan McKee will be followed by Neil Bibby.

15:14  



Ivan McKee (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)

I am pleased to speak in this stage 3 debate on the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill. I take the opportunity to draw members’ attention to my register of interests, with respect to residential property rental.

The change to the LBTT that we are debating is a small but important change, because it will enable people who, through no fault of their own, have been unfairly penalised through having to pay an additional amount, to redress that situation. It provides for the situation in which a couple who have two houses to sell and who are purchasing a single property could be treated as a single economic unit for the purposes of the additional dwelling supplement for both the sale and the purchase transactions. It is right that that anomaly be corrected, and that steps are now being put in place to ensure that the correction will apply retrospectively. It is good to see consensus across the chamber on that point.

Some other potential anomalies have been identified in the LBTT legislation; I know that the Law Society of Scotland and others have highlighted additional concerns to be considered and, if necessary, addressed. Although the bill has a narrow focus on the additional dwelling relief, I know that other aspects of the LBTT will be considered in due course. I look forward to considering them when they come up for debate in committee and in the chamber.

It is worth taking a minute, at this stage, to review the wider context of the Scottish Government’s changes to the LBTT and their impact. The steps that have been taken by the Scottish Government to focus the LBTT on the people who can most afford to pay and, as a consequence, to lower tax relative to the rest of the United Kingdom for people at the lower end of the housing scale, are to be welcomed. The measures have resulted in an additional 23,000 home purchasers having no LBTT to pay, and have meant that 93 per cent of house purchasers in Scotland either pay no LBTT or pay less than they would have under stamp duty land tax. That is good not only for individuals and families who benefit as a result; it is also good for the economy because it makes it easier for people to get on the housing ladder, and it helps the housing market at the lower end and enables a more mobile workforce, as a consequence.

I know that there was some concern that the measures could have a detrimental effect on the property market at the higher end, so it is worth taking a minute to review the data to determine whether that has been the case. The latest data from Revenue Scotland show that transactions in the £325,000 to £750,000 band, which represents the top 7 per cent of the market, have grown by 20 per cent and that revenues in the band have grown by 23 per cent over the past year. At the very highest segment, sales above £750,000, which represent the top 0.5 per cent of the market, have been growing even more strongly, with a 31 per cent increase in annual transactions being recorded. That suggests that the strength of the market in those bands has not been impacted by the Government’s restructuring of the LBTT.

I am very glad to see the specific point in respect of the additional dwelling supplement being addressed in the bill, and will be glad to see the bill being passed by Parliament.

15:17  



Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab)

Like my Labour colleague James Kelly, the minister and other members across the chamber, I make clear my support for the bill that we will vote on today. I welcome the fact that the minister and the Government have listened to and have, by introducing the changes in the bill, acted to address concerns that were raised by Murdo Fraser and others. As I have said before, it is unusual to introduce and pass retrospective legislation, but in this case it is absolutely the right thing to do, because the bill will correct unintended unfairness.

As other members have said, the additional dwelling supplement was introduced to raise taxation revenue from people who were buying additional properties as an investment opportunity or as holiday homes. Taxing people who are just replacing their main home was not intended and goes against the principle of fair taxation, as James Kelly said. At the time, the Scottish Government’s intention was clear: it wanted to levy an additional tax on people who purchased a property who already own another property. Rightly, the Scottish Government recognised that a situation can often arise in purchase of a property whereby an individual or a couple become, for a short period, the owner or owners of two properties. That is why, as has been said, a period of grace of up to 18 months was introduced. However, as members have said, it has become clear that, in trying to ensure that married couples, civil partners and cohabitants do not move property between individuals for tax-avoidance purposes, the unintended consequence to which I previously referred has been created.

I echo what other members have said today and previously: if Parliament decides that retrospective legislation is needed to address that unfairness, it would be pointless if the intended beneficiaries of that legislative change were unaware of their entitlement to claim a refund. I therefore reiterate that measures need to be taken to ensure that people are aware of the moneys to which they might be entitled.

Everyone accepts that the easiest way to address such anomalies is secondary legislation. Unfortunately, as we know, retrospective legislation cannot be effected by secondary legislation unless there is a specific expressed power, which, in this case, does not exist. Hence, the bill.

Although the bill is unusual, it is straightforward, it has unanimous support and it will address a small but significant unfairness. I will therefore join other members in supporting the bill at decision time.

15:20  



John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

Having been on the previous Finance Committee when we spent many happy hours considering and then legislating on the land and buildings transaction tax, I continue to have a fair degree of affection for LBTT, so I appreciate the opportunity to take part today and renew its acquaintance.

LBTT was the first devolved tax that we legislated on in the Parliament so, just like the eldest child in a family has a special place in its parents’ affections, I think that, for some of us, LBTT has a special place in our affections.

LBTT may not be the best-known tax that we have, and it may not produce the most money—it tends to be outshone by its bigger sibling, income tax—but it is a fully devolved tax that we were able to fashion in more of a Scottish way of doing things, and John Swinney deserves many congratulations for his role in leading on it.

No legislation is perfect, as has been said, and, in any case, circumstances change. I fully support the principle that we should revisit and review legislation and seek to improve on it when that is required, so I am more than happy to support this amending bill. It seeks to correct what is widely agreed to have been an unfairness that was not spotted at the earlier stages of our consideration of the tax.

I do not think that, as a Parliament, we need to be worried about that. We debate and legislate based on what we know at the time, and we then build on that as we move forward. That raises the question, however, of how we amend tax legislation on a regular and on-going basis. I am attracted to the suggestion made by the Law Society of Scotland—and, I think others—that we should consider a regular finance bill for, as the Law Society describes it,

“necessary changes ... at the administrative end of policy”.

That might not need to be annual, but it could perhaps be every two or three years. Something like that appears to happen with the Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs in the UK, and that is something that we could perhaps adapt for our purposes. I understand that the Government and the Finance and Constitution Committee will look into that, and it certainly sounds like a possibility to me.

I take the point that the forthcoming change to legislation needs to be publicised, so that those who could benefit from it are aware of it. However, we clearly need to be aware that we are probably looking at only between 76 and 189 cases, so I do not think that a widespread advertising campaign on television is needed.

In whatever way we look at it, LBTT has been an improvement on SDLT. It has been more progressive and fair from the beginning. The first-time buyers relief of £175,000 is very generous in my opinion. I accept that house prices vary a lot around Scotland, but people can certainly buy a reasonable flat in my constituency for less than half of that amount.

I hope that we can all support the bill at stage 3. It appears to be one of the less contentious bills that we have dealt with in this place, and I look forward to voting for it at decision time.

The Presiding Officer

We now move to the closing speeches.

15:23  



Patrick Harvie

Well, it has been a short time, Presiding Officer. This has been a short debate, and I do not think that I have ever given an opening speech and a closing speech in a debate within so short a time.

I have learned something in this brief debate that I never expected to hear: that someone has a sense of affection for LBTT. It is a curious choice of instrument on which to place a feeling of affection.

As I have said before, I regard LBTT as a small step in a more progressive direction but one that fails adequately to address how a genuinely progressive tax policy would deal with the unearned wealth that is locked up in our housing market. I again make the case for a more progressive approach to property taxation in future.

I will draw out a little more the arguments in the stage 1 report on the bill that the Finance and Constitution Committee made regarding a potential finance bill. In its submission to the committee, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland said:

“the existing limited annual tax procedure to vote on income tax rates and bands is not enough. To maintain and improve the Scottish devolved taxes a regular, formal, tax process is needed.”

As John Mason has reminded us, this tax measure is a relatively recent introduction. We have seen a gradual increase in the range and scope of tax powers that are within devolved competence. However, with the limited range of instruments that are available to us, we are clearly not serving the interests of scrutiny properly and we are perhaps not giving the Government the ability to implement policy as coherently as it would wish to. I am pleased that the committee will look further at the idea of a finance bill that would offer the chance of a more coherent approach both to the large tax policy decisions and to getting the small details right. Like everybody else, I will vote for the bill tonight.

15:25  



James Kelly

The debate has been very short, so I will make a brief speech to sum it up. I echo what Patrick Harvie said, in that in all the Finance and Constitution Committee debates that we have had recently, such as those on the budget and the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, there has been a lot of disagreement and they have been hotly contested, so it is good to participate in one on which there has been unanimous agreement across the chamber.

I welcome what the cabinet secretary said in relation to the annual updates that will be produced. When any legislation is introduced, it is important to monitor its effectiveness. As Neil Bibby said, it is important that people who will become eligible to claim relief as a result of this change going through are able to do so. We do not want to see people falling through the net, so annual updates will allow us to see the effect of that and to make sure that the awareness raising that Revenue Scotland will carry out will be effective.

I know that there has been comment from the Chartered Institute of Taxation about group relief for situations in which companies are involved in land transaction deals between themselves. There is clearly some anxiety about the group relief proposals that the Government is introducing not being applied retrospectively. The committee and Scottish Labour will look at that in detail once we have seen the proposals, and we will engage with the Chartered Institute of Taxation and others.

I agree with the comments made by Patrick Harvie and others about an annual tax bill. As the Parliament moves to a regime in which we have more tax-raising powers, we will get into a situation in which there will be a requirement to amend technical detail on taxation. It would make sense for appropriate changes to be dealt with in a sweeping-up finance bill at the end of each year.

To sum up, I welcome the consensual debate that has taken place. This is an example of a situation in which an anomaly has been identified and both Parliament and the Government have acted quickly to address it. Scottish Labour will support the bill at decision time, which will come up shortly.

15:28  



Derek Mackay

Like every other member who has spoken in the debate, in summing it up I will be relatively brief.

Mr Fraser gave us a revelation that I think surprised even Mr Harvie. I was not surprised by John Mason’s comment that he has affection for this kind of tax, because he is a both a lawmaker and a former accountant. I am more surprised that Murdo Fraser thinks that I have an allotment hidden away somewhere in Scotland. Look, I was just helping someone out at the weekend; it was not mine—that would be my offering to him. However, I did think that, if I had one and I had been tending to it in such wonderful weather, I might have ingratiated myself with the Greens. [Interruption.] Presiding Officer, I think that I might have broken the harmony that there has been in the chamber in relation to LBTT. I stress that I was happy to introduce the previous legislation in that regard.

It is important that, when the Government has identified an unintended consequence in tax law as a result of stakeholder engagement and fair member representation, we are willing to address it in a consensual and constructive fashion. All of Parliament is responsible for the laws that we generate, of course, but we have identified an issue and have been able to resolve it in a constructive fashion. In fairness, we did so as quickly as we could—James Kelly reflected on that. We should engage, consult, go through due legislative process and remedy the issue.

All members have picked up on the fact that there is an issue around how we can accommodate matters going forward. The prospect of an annual finance bill is worthy of further exploration.

Patrick Harvie touched on issues that are wider than the bill but, like all members, he welcomed its fundamentals.

All members have spoken helpfully about the nature of LBTT, the additional dwelling supplement and the remedy.

I want to go back to the group relief issue, which James Kelly and Murdo Fraser raised. The legislation will be helpful, and it will take effect very quickly. I know that there is the issue around the retrospective element. I believe that I can remedy that, as well, if I am given the time to ensure that I get it right. That will take away the concerns that exist with regard to group relief.

The bill addresses an anomaly that is maybe not of substantial budget significance, but it is a significant matter for those affected. I appreciate the way in which all members have engaged in the legislative issue and how they have conducted themselves in raising specific cases.

Following the successful passing of the bill, all of us, including stakeholders and Revenue Scotland, have a duty to raise awareness with appropriate cases so that people can be recompensed where that is appropriate and where they are eligible.

I am happy to conclude my remarks with that. I re-emphasise the consensus with which the bill has progressed and the retrospective action that will flow from it to ensure that we address the issue in the fashion that was requested of us.

The Presiding Officer

That concludes the stage 3 debate on the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill.

Given that decision time today is at 4 o’clock, I am minded to accept a motion without notice to bring forward decision time to now.

Motion moved,

That, under Rule 11.2.4 of Standing Orders, Decision Time on Thursday 17 May be taken at 3.32 pm.—[Joe FitzPatrick.]

Motion agreed to.

Final vote on the Bill

After the final discussion of the Bill, MSPs vote on whether they think it should become law.

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Final vote transcript

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

There is one question to be put as a result of today’s business. Because this is a piece of legislation, we will hold a vote. The question is, that motion S5M-12264, in the name of Derek Mackay, on stage 3 of the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) (Bill), be agreed to. Members may cast their votes now.

For

Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow) (Lab)
Russell, Michael (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
McMillan, Stuart (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (Ind)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
Mason, Tom (North East Scotland) (Con)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Marra, Jenny (North East Scotland) (Lab)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Mackay, Derek (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Harris, Alison (Central Scotland) (Con)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Grahame, Christine (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Allan, Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

Against

Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)

The Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 109, Against 1, Abstentions 0.

Motion agreed to,

That the Parliament agrees that the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Relief from Additional Amount) (Scotland) Bill be passed.

Meeting closed at 15:36.  



This Bill was passed on 17 May 2018 and became law on 22 June 2018 
Find the Act on legislation.gov.uk

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