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New challenges, new CEO

15 February 16

Revenue Scotland: a new CEO will shortly take up post, and among her first challenges will be collecting the LBTT supplement for second homes, also outlined here

by Eleanor Emberson

This time last year, Revenue Scotland was a hive of activity as we made our final preparations for our launch at the beginning of April. Expectations were high, as we would be administrating Scotland’s first national taxes in more than 300 years. Thanks to the hard work, dedication and professionalism of all those involved, including the many solicitors and others who offered advice and feedback, the launch of Revenue Scotland was successful.

In the first nine months, Revenue Scotland has collected Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) worth more than £315 million, which will go towards funding vital services across Scotland. We have strengthened working relationships with stakeholders by continuing with our Devolved Tax Collaborative, introducing LBTT forums, and running a new series of roadshows across the country. In addition, we have delivered an online service that has been welcomed as user-friendly and intuitive, resulting in more than 97.5% of LBTT returns being made online.

As the first operational year of Revenue Scotland comes to an end, I think the organisation has made a good start. At the roadshows, the LBTT forum and other meetings, we have been hearing your feedback on how we can improve our guidance and other aspects of our service and we are taking that on board. We will continue to work closely with taxpayers and agents, ensuring we are well placed to face the challenges of the future as LBTT changes and further taxes are devolved.

I have been with Revenue Scotland since 2012 to lead it through the set-up and early operational stages. It is important to have the same continuity of leadership through the changes in the years ahead, so this seemed an appropriate time for the board to recruit a new chief executive.

Elaine Lorimer, who is currently chief executive of the Law Commission of England & Wales, will take up the post of chief executive of Revenue Scotland in March. A lawyer and CIPFA-qualified solicitor with 20 years’ experience working at senior management and board level in the civil service in London and, prior to that, local government in Scotland, Elaine is ideally suited to lead Revenue Scotland in the next phase of its development. I know that she is committed to the same collaborative approach we have taken so far and I am sure you will enjoy working with her. Elaine will take up post on 14 March and an article in the coming months will provide an opportunity for Elaine to introduce herself.

However, there is much work still to be done before she takes up post. The Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Amendment) Bill was published on 28 January, and the legislation will follow a compressed timetable to allow it to come into effect in early April.

More information on the implementation of the LBTT change will follow, but at present, in summary, the draft bill reflects Scottish ministers’ intent that the supplement will:

  • apply to the total purchase price of an additional residential property purchase for £40,000 and above (the point at which you are required to make an LBTT return);
  • be chargeable if, at the completion of a transaction involving the purchase of a dwelling in Scotland, the buyer owns more than one dwelling (whether in Scotland or another country), unless the additional dwelling purchased is a replacement of the buyer’s existing main residence which has been sold;
  • apply to some transactions involving the purchase of a dwelling where non-residential rates apply.

The supplement will not apply to residential or non-residential lease transactions.

Revenue Scotland is now developing its operational policies and procedures, including updating the online and paper returns, as well as producing guidance for the new supplement. As ever, we will engage with solicitors throughout the process and I am keen to secure the participation of a small number of Law Society of Scotland members for user acceptance testing of our IT in February and March, and reviewing our guidance.

The online and manual returns forms will be updated and available from implementation, with accompanying guidance published in advance so that agents have time to prepare for transactions that will be subject to the supplement.

If you have questions about any of the points I have mentioned here, or would like to volunteer to review draft guidance or test the IT for the new LBTT change, please email us at info@revenue.scot

Eleanor Emberson, Head of Revenue Scotland 

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