A SHOP owner off the Royal Mile is being threatened with closure after being hit with a £30,000 bill – because of a dispute over his address.
William James, of Celtic Craft Centre in Paisley Close, claims to have been overpaying business rates – totalling tens of thousands of pounds over 30 years – because he has been “wrongly” classified as operating a High Street shop.
The 60-year-old’s shop is more than ten metres away from the famous thoroughfare and he believes he is the only business operating in a Royal Mile close forking out a £7000 per year levy.
Most, if not all, small traders in passageways off the Royal Mile qualify for 100 per cent rates relief as part of the council’s Small Business Bonus Scheme. But after refusing to pay the full rates amount for the last four years after discovering similar businesses situated off the Royal Mile had been exempt, debt collectors are now chasing the beleaguered trader for rates arrears worth £30,000 and look set to collapse his business.
Today Mr James, who sells authentic Scottish dress and merchandise, said his lawyers are advising him to sell the business or face bankruptcy.
He said: “To find out I’m the only business down the close that’s being hammered for rates I feel is victimisation.
“The only explanation I have been given for the anomaly is that according to the city council’s naming database, I am not down Paisley Close but on High Street.
“I am at my wits’ end because anyone can see that the entrance to my shop is ten metres from High Street yet I am paying a higher rate than every other business working out of a close.”
It is understood Lothian Valuation Joint Board, which works with the Scottish Government to set business rates, offered Mr James an opportunity to appeal the fee but he failed to respond in the allotted time and his case is now time barred.
Having exhausted all his avenues of redress, Mr James has approached the ombudsman, but collection agencies have been alerted by city council officers who collect business rates payments.
A council spokeswoman said: “We are the billing agent for non-domestic rates in Edinburgh. Resolution of any situation needs to be in the interests of the council and our tax payers. It is only fair to other Edinburgh residents that we seek to recover all of our debt.”
Paisley Close was made famous by Joseph McIver, a young survivor of a tenement collapse in 1861, who was pulled from the rubble after rescuers heard his cry of “Heave awa chaps, ah’m no deid yet”.