A tourist tax would be most practical and efficient if implemented as part of a national framework, with some built-in flexibility for local discretion.
In response to the Scottish Government’s consultation, the Law Society of Scotland has stated that a tourist tax must maintain the recognised principles of certainty, convenience, efficiency and proportionality to the ability to pay. A national framework would adhere to these principles by providing a consistent approach, enabling businesses operating across multiple authority areas to comply more easily, as well as making travelling more straightforward for tourists. However, the Society has highlighted that local discretion on some aspects of the levy would be advantageous in order for the levy to be tailored to local circumstances as required, due to the varying tourism numbers, economies, and challenges across Scotland.
Andrew Alexander, head of policy at the Law Society of Scotland, said: “Local authorities understand their communities’ needs best, so we see the value in empowering them to make decisions such as how to invest receipts from the levy for the benefit of those communities.
“We support these decisions being made within a national framework which would outline processes for administration of the levy, ensuring consistency and easing the burden of compliance for businesses who operate across multiple authorities.
“The challenge however, will be in achieving a workable implementation plan and we suggest that careful and detailed consideration of how the levy would work in practice is required and we would encourage local authorities to consult on relevant matters in advance of a levy being introduced.”
The Law Society of Scotland put forward its support for the levy taking the form of a percentage of total accommodation charge, rather than being applied per room, per person or as a flat rate per night. The Society highlights that this is likely to be the fairest and most easily applied format, but stresses the need for further clarity, particularly around whether the total accommodation charge would include meals and other services.
The Society considers it appropriate to include the application of the levy to commercially let accommodation, but again calls for clarity around this definition – for instance, whether second homes used by friends and family for a fee would be subject to the levy. The Law Society also believes that clarity would be helpful around where the collection and compliance burden of the levy lies: The responsibility might sit with the accommodation provider or with another business advertising the accommodation and taking bookings and it is important that this liability is made clear.