Scotland's new tax body: The story so far

Scottish currency
By Eleanor Emberson

19 August 2015

Eleanor Emberson, Chief Executive of Revenue Scotland, reports on the progress of Scotland's new tax authority.

It's hard to believe that it's been almost four months since we launched Revenue Scotland and began the historic work of collecting the first Scottish taxes in more than 300 years.

The dedication and professionalism shown by everyone involved in this project over the last two-and-a-half years has been exemplary. To develop and deliver a tax authority from scratch, on time and to specification, is a truly remarkable feat, and the smooth launch belies the incredible amount of work that was involved in preparing for 1 April.

The team within Revenue Scotland who made this happen were able to draw on advice and support from experienced professionals and representative bodies, including ICAS and many of its members, and that played a huge part in our successful launch.

However, the work of Revenue Scotland is just beginning. Up to the end of May, we had collected from more than 16,000 residential and non-residential LBTT (land and buildings transaction tax) returns. We're also preparing to process the first quarterly returns for the Scottish landfill tax, and landfill operators have until 13 August to make those first returns. We will continue to publish monthly statistics on our performance and the tax collected, and publish them in the Statistics section of our website.

Much of the first few months of "live operations" has been taken up with completing the handover of work from the programme that set up Revenue Scotland to the teams that make up the operational organisation. A crucial part of this has been identifying lessons learned. A range of examples of good practice have now been documented and will be made available for any future programmes in Scotland tasked with creating a public body or a previously reserved function.

Establishing, building and maintaining public confidence and trust in Revenue Scotland remains vital to everything that we do. We fully recognise that earning and keeping this public confidence is not only an essential precondition of our success in achieving our strategic objectives but also an essential outcome of doing our job well. We are determined to achieve this by developing a reputation for excellence in administering the devolved taxes effectively, efficiently and securely.

Continuing to build on those relationships with professional bodies that we developed during our set-up work is essential to that, and our regular meetings with ICAS will help us continue to refine our systems and processes.

Recent months have seen much political debate over Scotland's future powers, and central to that is
the range of tax powers to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The recently introduced Scotland Bill at Westminster provides for Smith's recommendations of devolution of air passenger duty and aggregates taxation to Scotland, among other changes that will give Scotland more control over tax revenues.

You can be assured that the whole Revenue Scotland team is focused on making sure that the first year of collecting and managing Scotland's devolved taxes is a success and to continuing to work with you on the tax changes to come.

Eleanor Emberson is Chief Executive of Revenue Scotland. This article first appeared in the August 2015 edition of The CA magazine.

Creating a new tax authority: ICAS' role

ICAS has had a key role in the creation of the new tax authority and the ongoing evolution of Scotland's devolved taxes.

Charlotte Barbour, ICAS Director of Taxation, said: "It's a rare opportunity to be involved in the setting up of a brand new tax authority. We have been through periods of turbulence during the last year or two when it was unclear how many taxes might be devolved to Scotland.

"At present, however, it will generally be lawyers who have the most contact with Revenue Scotland, given that land and buildings transaction tax is one of two devolved taxes, the other being Scottish landfill tax which does not affect a large number of taxpayers or agents.

"The ICAS Scottish Taxes sub-committee has spent considerable time and commitment in examining and commenting on the Revenue Scotland and Tax Powers Act 2014 and in the set-up of Revenue Scotland, in the interests of both members of ICAS and the broader public interest. As tax practitioners, sub-committee members set out to share their insights on the many issues and decisions involved in tax system design, and to point out operational practicalities. There are also lessons to be shared as devolution of taxes extends to other parts of the UK, whether this is in cities as part of the "northern powerhouse" reforms, or other constituent parts of the UK, such as Wales.

"ICAS representatives have contributed by making submissions, by meeting regularly with Revenue Scotland officials to discuss process and procedures, and by being a part of the discussion forum, the Devolved Tax Collaborative.

"We look forward to continuing to work with Revenue Scotland."


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