Scotland’s tax powers

Until 2014, only two taxes were controlled within Scotland: Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rates (often known as Business Rates). The vast majority of the Scottish Budget was determined by a block grant from Westminster – which in turn, was operated by the Barnett Formula.

Following the Calman Commission, Stamp Duty on property transactions and landfill tax were transferred to Holyrood in 2015 alongside a partial transfer of income tax the following year. A new tax to replace Stamp Duty was created, the Land and Buildings Transactions Tax (LBTT).

The partial devolution of income tax was only operational for one year – 2016/17. This was because the 2014 Smith Commission recommended that income tax revenues levied on ‘non-savings, non-dividend’ income should be transferred in full to the Scottish Parliament, with MSPs having the ability to vary rates and bands without constraint, and this full transfer of income tax revenues took place in 2017/18.

The Smith Commission also recommended that Air Passenger Duty and the Aggregates Levy be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Finally, it recommended that approximately half of VAT revenues raised should be assigned to the Scottish budget.


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The Fraser of Allander Institute (FAI) is a leading economy research institute based in the Department of Economics at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.