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On track for 1 April

16 February 15

With less than two months to go until launch, Revenue Scotland’s chief executive details the work taking place to ensure Scotland’s devolved taxes authority is ready for business

by Eleanor Emberson

Revenue Scotland became a non-ministerial department at the start of this year. What’s been happening since then?

It’s been a busy start to the year. As part of becoming an independent body – a non-ministerial department, in the jargon – we have welcomed our board, led by Dr Keith Nicholson. The board members have a range of skills and experience that complement the significant experience of the staff already working here. We have also launched our roadshow events, which give solicitors around the country the chance to meet Revenue Scotland staff and learn more about the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) and also see a demonstration of our online tax system.

How is work on the online system progressing?

Extremely well. January saw us test various components of the online system, through which LBTT returns will be completed, and we were very fortunate to have a range of solicitors and paralegals give up their time to take part in that. We’ve also given demonstrations of the system to representatives of the Law Society of Scotland, ICAS and the Chartered Institute of Taxation. The reaction has been very positive, with members of the Society commenting on the “user-friendly and intuitive nature” of the system. We were also pleased to give the IT system a name, SETS (Scottish Electronic Taxation System).

What’s the next step for the online system?

As with all new IT systems, developments will take place in stages, or “releases”. The next stage that will be of most interest to end users will be that sign-up for the portal is available from 16 February.

The most straightforward way for firms to get their staff registered is for their staff with LRA permissions on ARTL to register using their RoS credentials. This will allow them to set up as an administrator for the Revenue Scotland portal (SETS) and then set up access for users within their firm. Guidance on the process will be available on the Revenue Scotland website.

For anyone experiencing problems with the sign-up process, we will have a support desk, details of which are also available on our site.

You also mentioned your roadshows – can you tell us more about them?

The roadshows are part of Revenue Scotland’s commitment to engage with stakeholders and ensure they have access to the information they need to work with LBTT. We started in Stirling last month, and through February, we’re visiting Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Inverness, Dumfries and Aberdeen to give anyone completing an LBTT form the chance to learn more about the tax, the returns process and sight of the returns form. There are still some tickets available for most of the roadshows so, if you’re interested, register at www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/revenue-scotland-7829701925. If you can’t make it to one of our shows, we’ll also be hosting a webinar later in the month. We are posting details of this on our website, www.revenue.scot.

There’s been a lot of coverage of the proposed LBTT rates recently, with the Deputy First Minister announcing revised rates and bands to the Parliament last month. How has this affected your work?

It hasn’t really. Revenue Scotland was established to administer the two taxes – LBTT and the Scottish Landfill Tax – set out in the Scotland Act 2012. Our systems and processes are set up to accommodate changes to rates and bands as a part of normal business. You will see that we have updated our online tax calculators to reflect these changes, so people can still log on and see how they could affect them or transactions they’re involved with. The calculators are on our website, www.revenue.scot.

Administering the first taxes to be set and collected in Scotland in more than 300 years is a huge responsibility. With the clock ticking, will Revenue Scotland be ready for 1 April?

We are on track and will be ready for 1 April. The IT system is being tested as mentioned earlier, recruitment for the remaining staff is underway, technical guidance is available from 16 February and we have our board in place. There will be plenty of work still to do from 1 April onwards and I am very lucky to have such a hard-working team of professionals at Revenue Scotland. I am sure their dedication and commitment will continue as we work towards administering the taxes from 1 April. 

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