Sporting rates are to be re-introduced to Scotland and will be payable whether shooting takes place or not, effectively making it a land tax.
Information has been published on the Scottish Assessors Association website indicating rates will be levied on an area basis, with different rates for different types of ground regardless of whether any sporting or shooting activity actually takes place.
It only requires the land to be suitable for shooting.
Susie Swift, partner with accountants Saffery Champness, based in the firm’s Inverness office, said: "The reintroduction of sporting rates to Scotland comes after a 20-year break. We understand that some 55,000 properties will have been assessed either based on information provided by the landholding or in the absence of that, an estimate has been made by the assessors."
Last year farmers and land managers were urged to fill in self-assessment forms describing the sporting activity carried out on the land even if it was only vermin control.
It has now emerged in cases where there was no response the acreages were simply taken from Single Farm Payment applications.
Ms Swift said there would be scope for an appeal.
Senior surveyor at Bidwells in Perth, Tim Roads, agreed but warned successful appeals were only likely to be granted on the basis of certain criteria.
“Rates can be charged for ‘shooting rights’ and ‘deer forests’ and will be charged where there is ‘potential’ for either or both. They will also be calculated on an area basis with different types of land given a different rate per hectare,” said Mr Roads.
“The rates will be payable by the party who uses the shooting rights or deer forest – either the owner, if the rights are kept in-hand, or the leasee if the rights are let.
“The rates can be appealed but successful appeals are only likely to be granted on the basis of whether the land type has been defined incorrectly, if there are ‘extreme disabilities’ with the land [which limit its potential for sporting] or the owner/leasee of the rights is obliged to carry out a cull and/or vermin control on the land."
NFU Scotland’s legal and technical policy manager Gemma Cooper said: “Importantly, any members who are eligible for any reliefs will need to apply for these. Also, members who wish to appeal are urged to do so as soon as possible.
“The controversial process of re-introducing sporting rates, which we opposed as a union, started last year when forms asking farmers to provide detailed information on their land use and its ’sporting potential’ caused consternation.
"We had a huge number of calls when the forms were received, due to the complexity and sheer volume of information requested."
The published rates per hectare are as follows: