Smart & Co in the Daily Mail

ON APRIL Fools’ Day, the recalculation of a key business tax will take effect – but few within Scotland’s business community will be laughing at the terrible financial uncertainty that this will bring. I have already had calls from clients who are having to halt expansion and investment plans in the face of eyewatering increases in the Rateable Value (RV) of their properties.

One Perthshire hotel and leisure firm has told me they are so nervous about the future that they cannot proceed with their plans to expand. Tourism, one of our nation’s main income streams supplying more than 200,000 jobs and injecting £5billion into our economy annually, is being hit particularly hard.

At the top end, the RV of Perthshire’s Crieff Hydro hotel is up nearly £700,000 a year from £1.15million to £1.85million. The region’s Gleneagles Hotel will have its RV jump from £2.3million to £3.66million. Smaller hotels are suffering equally.

The Royal George in Perth will face an RV leap from £92,000 to £130,000. Over five years, that is an extra £93,500 the hotel must find from its budget. It is hardly surprising that many hoteliers fear for their futures. Faced with rates rises, their options are limited. Either reduce investment in the property – by shelving maintenance and refurbishment plans or laying off staff – or increase prices.

Whichever path they choose makes them less attractive to customers. And when a hotelier stops investing in his property, it is not only the customer who suffers but also the local economy, local decorators, roofers, joiners and electricians. Freezing wages, laying off staff and not employing local trades all takes money out of people’s pockets and out of the local economy. What you end up with is a self-propelling race to the bottom.

Not all sectors are faring so badly – retail, office and industrial properties are paying less in the main – but the pain is not being spread evenly. Yesterday, for example, it emerged that the SNP’s own Edinburgh HQ’s RV has been cut from £38,100 to £27,700. Quartermile, on the former site of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, is arguably the city’s prime office development. The RV for one occupant, Investec Wealth & Investment, has dropped from a little under £210,000 to just below £188,000. In PERTH, transport giant Stagecoach’s RV bill is going down from £320,500 to £245,500, while energy firm SSE’s RV has gone from a little less than £1.4million to £1million – a drop of almost a third. M&S in Perth city centre is down from £594,000 to £473,000 and New Look is dropping from £249,500 to £199,500.

Some people say this is a crazy system – these big guys can afford to pay more. So, why is this happening? The RV is an independent assessor’s estimate of what the property could be rented out for, based on size, quality of facilities and the turnover of any trade based there. This recalculation normally takes places every five years and should have happened in 2015 but was postponed by the Scottish Government for two years, supposedly because they did not want to hit anyone with an increase while we were still in recession. But the delay has not helped everyone. The last revaluation was in 2010 but assessors always base their calculations on what the likely rental value would have been two years previously. On April 1, 2008, the property market was riding high, unfettered by the repercussions of the financial crash which did not register until later that year.

In effect, then, for the past seven years businesses have been hit with rates based on the very crest of a property boom at a time when the market has actually gone through the floor. Businesses are now being told to stump up more. Much more in some cases. The Scottish Government appears to suggest this is not its problem as the revaluation is carried out by the Scottish Assessors Association on behalf of local authorities and is market-driven analysis. But it is a devolved policy which is having a very material impact on many livelihoods and ministers could put a fairer, more tailored, system in place if they really wanted to help more people. Until this happens, what can businesses do legally to minimise their exposure to huge RV increases? They have a six-month window from April 1 to appeal against their revaluation figure and I would urge all of them to do so. Even if your RV is set to come down, there is nothing to say it should not come down further.

The appeal process can take up to three years, during which time you will have to keep paying that increased rates bill. You might ultimately receive a refund, which could come too late for some. Make no mistake, paying an extra £30,000 or more in rates every year could be the end of some businesses.

Nevertheless, the first thing to do is take professional advice from a rating surveyor regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, who can advise whether it is worth taking an appeal forward. Most operate on a no-win, no-fee basis, so you have nothing to lose.

Our company is already planning to take forward a significant number of appeals and would be happy to talk to anybody who has concerns. It is a chance to challenge an unfair tax – you should take it. 

For more information, email info@smartandco.co.uk or call 01764 670 335

Graeme Duncan Joins the Team

PRESS RELEASE

Smart & Co is delighted to announce that Graeme Duncan has joined the company as an equity Director.

Graeme joins from a well known national surveying firm where he was Partner in Charge of the Scotland Commercial department with over 14 years experience in the Perthshire and Tayside property markets – particularly in the business rates, property management, agency and valuation sectors.

Doug Smart said “I am delighted to welcome Graeme to the company. His joining is great news for our clients as his detailed knowledge and expertise in the rating system and in property management expands our service offering and we are now able to provide all the key commercial property functions in one place. We have enjoyed year on year growth since our beginning eight years ago and are confident looking to the future. With the rating revaluation this April, the timing of Graeme’s arrival is especially good news for existing and new clients.”

Graeme Duncan said “I am thrilled and highly motivated taking on this new role and looking forward to offering existing and new clients a bespoke and personal level of service that hopefully exceeds expectation. Having known Doug for a number of years we have the same hunger and ambition to take Smart and Co forward through it’s next chapter of growth whilst retaining the company ethos of providing the highest possible level of service to clients”.

Smart & Co was formed in 2008 and provides a wide range of Surveying services to clients across Scotland from their base in Perthshire. Services include: rent reviews, development land sales, general agency, site finding, property investment, valuation, management and business rates advice.

Ends.

Jan 2017

Rating Valuations now released

Draft Rateable Values (RV) for commercial properties across Scotland have now been released and will come into effect from April 2017.

You should check yours online at www.saa.gov.uk and see what is being proposed for your property. Check whether all the information is correct - this is going to form the basis for how much you pay for Business Rates for the next 5 years so take your time to make sure its right.

The RV is based upon the 'tone' rental value of your property two years ago, and you pay a percentage of the RV based on the Uniform Business Rate. Depending on your circumstances you may qualify for discounts, however these aren't automatically applied so you will need to apply for them.

There will be winners - with some Rateable Values reducing - but inevitably many will see their RV's rise and now is the time to consider lodging an appeal to challenge this. Even for those whose RV has reduced, further savings may still be secured due to errors in the calculations. 

As always for your best chances of success, take professional advice.

If you would like to discuss how Smart & Co can help you, please contact us.

 

Business Rates Revaluation 2017

Next year (2017) will bring an opportunity to have your property completely re-assessed for Business Rates.

Although occupiers of business premises can have their Rateable Value checked within 6 months of taking occupation, this is done within the context of the prevailing current system. A full revaluation only usually happens every 5 years, however in 2012 the Scottish Government decided to defer the revaluation due in 2015 until 2017.

The revaluation offers a great chance to reduce one of the biggest overhead costs facing a business - and with the right help and advice the savings can be very significant indeed.

We understand that the Rating system is not particularly straightforward and it is very important to get it done right - as the results will be felt for at least the next 5 years. At Smart & Co we are delighted to offer great advice which is born from nearly two decades of experience gained directly 'at the coal-face'.

So, to take advantage of the opportunities this revaluation will afford, contact us for an initial no cost or obligation conversation.

Aldi for Crieff gets approval

After nearly two years of work, Smart & Co move closer to helping deliver the much wanted and long awaited new food-store for Crieff.

Working with the landowner, the developer and the retailer, we have been with this project every step of the way and at the recent Local Review Body (LRB) hearing, the outcome we have been hoping for was received.

This is great news for Crieff and although the process is not over, it does at least mark a major milestone in the journey and it hopefully means the prospect of a new food store in the town is increasingly more likely.

We'll update this blog as and when we have more news.

Smart & Co interviewed in Novaloca.

NovaLoca have been looking over the past year into the revitalisation of Scottish town centres through the Scottish Governments “Town Centre Action Plan”.

To see what life has been like for commercial agents based in these towns, they have interviewed some of the key players.

Smart & Co were delighted to be approached to find out what business has been like so far this year. Comrie is a small but beautiful village in Perthshire which lies on the banks of the River Earn nestled on the edge of the Scottish Highlands. Here’s what Doug had to say...

What has business been like for Smart & Co in 2016?

Since the start of 2016 things have been exceptionally busy. Smart & Co has secured some major new clients resulting in numerous new instructions.

Have you seen any trends emerging in the market this year?

Locally, I have noted a continuing move towards bespoke services and niche business emerging. This could be a result of either the cottage-industry type ventures you see in traditional rural locations or just the logical filling in of gaps left by the internet.

How are the different property type markets doing individually?

Retail space in Comrie is limited. Crieff, which is about 6 miles East of Comrie, has the greater provision but has seen a drop in occupancy. The reason for this is partly to do with online competition but also due to other factors.

Office occupancy is still quite small but we are seeing some businesses expand out of the spare-room and take up of office space is forecasted to be a growth area!

How would you rate the overall situation of the commercial property market in Comrie at the moment?

Comrie is a small village with a good offering of shops which are virtually all occupied. We have the unique offering of a World War 2 POW Camp (Cultybraggan Camp) on our doorstep which is owned by the people of Comrie. This creates scope to provide business space of all types to accommodate start-ups through to midsized ventures. Smart & Co has secured a good number of tenants there but still have plenty space if anyone is interested!

Are there any particular challenges you face when doing business in your area?

As a commercial surveyor there are only limited volumes of local instructions. This is why Smart & Co covers a much wider area with clients and instructions from Moray all the way down to Leeds.

Are there any particular types of occupiers and businesses that are being attracted to Comrie as a business destination?

Many occupiers find merit in Comrie and Crieff but tourist related businesses tend to fare particularly well in Comrie. We are lucky to be situated in a beautiful part of the world with the advantage of being on a very well established tourist route from Perth to Oban.

Being only 7 miles from Crieff obviously has the advantage of Crieff Hydro, drawing many tourists who like to explore this stunning part of the world and our own Comrie Croft has cemented its position as a major attraction for mountain-biking, camping and as a wedding venue.

What are the benefits for businesses who are considering relocating to Comrie?

Connectivity is a major benefit. Geographically, Comrie is almost the exact centre-point of Scotland so from here we can reach most parts of the country in just over 2 hours.

What is the best thing about running a business in Comrie?

Like many people here I work from home so the work-life balance is brilliant. No matter where I have to go for meetings, the commute is spectacular around here.

Are there any projects or developments that you are particularly excited about at the moment?

Absolutely - due to the volume of work, Smart & Co is doubling the team as of January next year! This is a very exciting time for the business and I am particularly enthusiastic about the opportunities ahead.

What do you hope that the rest of 2016 will bring for Smart & Co?

Continued growth and new opportunities!

 

Fate of controversial Aldi plan lies with local review body - The Courier

Whether a much needed supermarket gets the green-light to come to Crieff will be decided in the next few months. Aldi have proposed to build a new store near Duchlage Farm on the southside of Crieff and although this was initially turned down by the planners, the appeal process is edging forward towards a decision. read the Couriers article here