Conference call in tourism tax row

A REGIONAL tourist chief is to put concerns over a government tax change that could hit Yorkshire's holiday industry at the heart of his keynote speech to Britain's biggest tourism event.

Gary Verity, the chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, will highlight the feared impact the changes will have in his opening address to more than 1,000 people at the Y10 conference at the Harrogate International Centre later this month.

And Mr Verity will urge the region's most high-profile politicians and business leaders to help find an alternative to the changes, which it is feared will cost Yorkshire's tourism industry 20m and put hundreds of jobs at risk.

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Mr Verity, who last week gave his backing to a Yorkshire Post campaign to urge a review of the changes, said: "We are actively lobbying to persuade the Government to rethink this matter.

"We are expecting an audience of over 1,000 people from across the tourism industry which gives us the perfect opportunity to discover what people need from us and to influence decision makers.

"We hope to convince the Government to agree to a review as we have serious concerns about the impact this will have on businesses in Yorkshire."

The proposals, which the Government plans to introduce in April, will scrap tax privileges for holiday home owners but will also affect self-catering accommodation owners of which there are 2,500 in Yorkshire alone.

Damning research undertaken by the Tourism Alliance has shown the impact is a staggering 10 times above treasury predictions and will wreak havoc.

Robert Goodwill, Conservative MP for Scarborough and Whitby, who has joined the protest against the changes, said: "Y10 is the perfect venue to gauge the impact this will have on business and raise awareness of the damage it will do.

"There is still time for something to be included in the budget and to find a solution."

The repeal of the furnished holiday lettings rules was announced in the 2009 Budget but will come into effect in April this year.

It follows an EU ruling that British holiday home owners abroad should be entitled to the same tax breaks that they enjoy in the UK.

Self-catering accommodation owners are treated under the same tax bracket as holiday home owners, and despite often relying on their businesses for their livelihoods, the decision means they will also have their tax benefits removed.

Campaigners argue the Government can introduce rules which will still claim tax back from holiday home owners without affecting genuine businesses.

The preferred solution is to make it more stringent for people to qualify for furnished holiday lettings by saying no member of the family could ever stay in the house.

The Y10 conference takes place on March 22. Welcome to Yorkshire will use the event to reveal the figures for tourism in Yorkshire in 2009 and announce what it describes as "exciting and ambitious plans" for 2010.

The Yorkshire Post campaign, called Give Tourism A Break, was launched last week with the backing of politicians and tourist chiefs. If you want the Government to think again, sign up to our online petition at www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/GiveTourismABreak