PREMIER Woodlands’ managing director John Hetherington has addressed the growing concern amongst landowners regarding the possibility of the Inland Revenue narrowing the interpretation of ‘agricultural’ land with regard to future eligibility for rollover and inheritance tax reliefs.
He commented: “A commitment on the part of landowners to plant trees under the Forestry Expansion Scheme, or FES, will give them active farmer status for the next 10 years.
“Tree planting makes total economic sense in its own right. All income generated from tree/timber sales is free from all forms of taxation. The FES scheme has been extended for the next two-three years. It was developed to create new woodlands that are at least three hectares in size, which is the same minimum size for farm business registration.
“All woodlands that comply with the UK Forestry Standard are eligible for support. Successful applicants would receive up to 100 per cent of eligible establishment costs for the first five years plus annual premia for a 10-year period, and in addition, where the landowner owns Single Farm Payment entitlements, the entitlement value per hectare per year.
“Making all of this happen mandates DAERA to attribute an active farmer status to the landowner throughout the 10-year period of the FES-approved project.
“The additional implications that can be drawn from this state of affairs are obvious. In the first instance it will help to fully confirm the agricultural status of all the land owned by a forestry landowner.
“This state-of-affairs will be of very direct benefit to land owners, where future eligibility for rollover and inheritance tax reliefs are concerned.”
The FES application period has previously opened in July and closed in September, with approvals only coming in December or January. This means up to 50 per cent of the planting season is lost.
We urge Forest Service to open the FES application period earlier this year, in June and close it in August, allowing the Approving Panel to approve applications in September and issue approvals in October. This would greatly assist landowner or their agents by allowing ground preparation to begin in October in readiness for planting in November, utilising the whole planting season from November to May.
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