10. Information is clearly key for the Assessors' valuations and for the appeals process. Many respondents suggested that better information flow ahead of valuation, in either or both directions between the Assessor and the ratepayer  , would mitigate the need for appeals. The Government agrees with this principle.
11. The Government recognises that transparency needs to be balanced by confidentiality, and as a matter of course urges ratepayers and Assessors to share information to inform and explain valuations insofar as is reasonably possible.
12. The Government notes the statutory requirement for proprietors, tenants and occupiers to provide information to the Assessor where requested, to inform valuations, and the associated criminal offence of failure to do so  . In practice, however, response rates are low, but criminal proceedings are rarely if ever pursued.
13. For the Assessors' part, valuations for individual properties are often informed by information relating to a number of other properties, for example having a similar type or location. Such information can be commercially sensitive, however, often meaning that relevant information in respect of other properties is not shared with the ratepayer in respect of the valuation of their own property.
14. The Government notes the benefit of the online portal facility  developed by the Scottish Assessors Association ( SAA), including the availability of summary valuations for almost two-thirds of properties, and encourages the continued use and development of this facility to provide relevant information.
15. Limitations on information exchange ahead of valuation likely leads to more appeals. There is no legitimate reason for the withholding of information by failing to respond to the Assessors, and the Government urges parties to respond in line with the law to the Assessors' statutory requests for information to inform valuations. The Government is keeping under active review whether different sanctions, such as civil penalties, are required in respect of failure to provide information to the Assessor.
16. The Government is also sympathetic to the calls to extend the statutory 14-day information return period and to enable electronic communication in this respect, which would require primary legislation, and will re-visit this issue in time for the 2022 revaluation.
17. The Government has already committed that draft rateable values will be made available to ratepayers as far as possible in advance of the 2017 revaluation. This should enable greater dialogue between ratepayers and Assessors before valuations are finalised (new valuation rolls must statutorily be 'made up' by 15 March 2017), and should help mitigate against appeals.
18. Electronic communication in respect of lodging and withdrawing valuation appeals is already enabled, with the Assessors publishing email addresses and facilitating the lodging of appeals via the online portal facility. Consultation responses were supportive of the general enablement of electronic communications, notwithstanding which the Government supports non-electronic modes remaining available for reasons of inclusivity. The Government therefore proposes to clarify that electronic communications are admissible in respect of all exchanges relating to appeals to a Valuation Appeal Committee.
19. The Government acknowledges the importance of its own role in the promotion of general information for ratepayers, and will endeavour to provide improved information on its own websites, including in respect of valuation appeal processes.