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11 December 2014, 06:36
Scotland's new taxes could take longer and cost more to process due to delays in the setting-up of the new tax authority, auditors have warned.
Audit Scotland has published a report on the Scottish Government's progress in preparing for control of new powers in the Scotland Act 2012.
It will see the introduction of the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT), which replaces the current stamp duty, and the Scottish Landfill Tax from April 2015.
Revenue Scotland is being set up to deal with collection of the new taxes.
However, delays in hiring staff and procuring an IT system to collect and administer the taxes have increased the risk that they will not be "effectively managed'' when they come into force next year, according to the report.
This could result in tax payments taking longer to process and increased costs of collection, the report states.
LBTT will be collected immediately from April 1, with around 450 to 600 transactions every day.
"Given the large volume of transactions anticipated, any move away from the electronic processing of LBTT is likely to have cost and performance implications,'' the report says.
"In recognition of the reducing time available between now and April 1 2015 to establish the required IT systems, the IT implementation group is developing contingency plans.
"Revenue Scotland plans to decide in December 2014 whether it needs to implement any of its contingency plans.
"This could, for example, lead to an increase in processing costs and may bring reputational risks for Revenue Scotland.''
The report recommends that Revenue Scotland closely monitors recruitment to its operational team and development of the IT system.
Caroline Gardner, Auditor General for Scotland, said: "The implementation of the Scotland Act 2012 is a large and complex task that will change the landscape for public finances in Scotland, increasing fiscal autonomy and strengthening the accountability of the Scottish Parliament.
"The Scottish Government successfully developed the legislative framework for the devolved taxes but it must ensure that staff and systems are fully in place to manage the increased responsibilities that the Scotland Act brings.''
Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott said: "SNP ministers must be up front about any potential delay to the roll-out of Scotland's new tax body.
"The SNP cannot afford to bungle one of the most significant authorities launched in Scotland since the Scottish Parliament.
"We want assurances that the Government are actively tackling these problems before they snowball into a full-scale delay.''