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Report examines merits of land value tax in Scotland

new report looking at land value tax, published today, Monday 10th December, suggests that land value taxation could help deliver Scotland’s land reform objectives and raise revenue in a more progressive way.

With a total estimated value of around £5 trillion, or just over half of the total net worth of the UK, land is the most valuable asset in the UK.

This has led many to question whether more needs to be done to ensure that the gains from rising land value, benefit society as a whole.

Written for the Scottish Land Commission by a research team at the University of Reading, the report argues that there is scope for reform of existing land and property taxation.

It also suggests that land value tax would be an efficient approach to such taxation, as the supply of land is relatively fixed and cannot fluctuate with changes in rates.

A number of countries around the world already use some form of land value tax.

The research team looked at this international experience and assessed the potential of using land value taxation in Scotland.

The report identifies a number of practical issues that would need to be resolved before any land value tax system is implemented.

These include the role of the planning system and the land register, and coordination with existing land and property taxes so that any new tax would not negatively affect development viability and wider public policy goals.

Alongside the report, the Land Commission has also published a briefing paper detailing the next steps for its work on land value tax and how it could help improve the productivity, diversity and accountability of the way Scotland’s land is owned and used.  This work will examine the potential role land value tax may play in:

  1. Reducing the amount of vacant and derelict land: land value tax could help to achieve this on some sites by establishing a financial cost for keeping land idle, creating an incentive for it being brought back into use and discouraging speculation in the land market.
  2. Capturing more of the publically-created increases in land value as a result of wider societal changes: for example,  improvements in the local or national economy can make an area more desirable to live in increasing land value; land value tax has the potential to return some of these gains to society by using the revenue raised to help fund local infrastructure, amenities, and public services.
  3. Creating more diverse land ownership in Scotland: changes in the land tax base and/or tax structure could support the move to a more productive and diverse pattern of rural land ownership and use.

Commenting on the report, Hamish Trench, Chief Executive of Scottish Land Commission said,

“This report provides a good evidence base for us to engage widely on the potential role land value taxation could play in making more of Scotland’s land. The research suggests land value tax could contribute to addressing key land reform objectives, including bringing vacant and derelict sites into use, reinvesting rising land values to public benefit and moving to a more diverse and productive pattern of land ownership.

“While the theoretical case for land value tax is strong, this research focused on international experience in implementing land value tax and it provides useful lessons on both the policy approach and practical issues that need to be considered.

“The Scottish Land Commission will now be engaging widely with stakeholders to undertake further analysis of role land value tax could play in delivering land reform priorities.”