Budget 2020: Farmers fears’ over loss of tax breaks prove unfounded
PUBLISHED: 16:57 11 March 2020 | UPDATED: 08:40 12 March 2020
Suffolk and Essex farmers will be breathing a sigh of relief as the industry’s main tax perks escaped unscathed in the Budget.
With new chancellor Rishi Sunak fully focused on measures to alleviate the effects of the global coronavirus outbreak, fears that farmers might lose their Agricultural Property Relief, Business Property Relief and Red Diesel Rebate proved unfounded.
Country Land and Business Association (CLA) East regional director Cath Crowther praised temporary measures to help small businesses through the virus crisis, and expressed relief that there was no negative change introduced on taxing farms during a 'steady as she goes' Budget speech.
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But she pointed out that the industry couldn't rule out the possibility that the issue might re-emerge at a future point and that intensive lobbying must continue.
'This was a budget that backed small businesses through difficult times,' she said.
'We welcome the measures set out by the chancellor to extend the retail discount to the hospitality and leisure sector, as well as abolishing business rates altogether for one year for firms with a rateable value below £51,000. This provides businesses not just with the opportunity to survive the Coronavirus scare, but to properly plan for the future and grow their enterprises.
She added: 'Rumours that Agricultural Property Relief, Business Property Relief and the Red Diesel Rebate might be scrapped caused significant concern among farmers, and the CLA lobbied the Treasury, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), MPs and officials intensively as a result.
'However, the fact we had to make the argument in the first place shows we must continue to fight for family businesses.'
National Farmers' Union president Minette Batters described the decision to retain relief on red diesel as 'the most significant decision today for British farmers'.
'This is absolutely crucial and we are pleased to see the chancellor has acknowledged our concerns. Red diesel is the primary fuel to run the majority of agricultural machinery and it is incredibly important for the farm businesses that produce the nation's high quality and affordable food.'
Many of farm businesses had experienced the wettest winter in recent memory and thousands still found themselves underwater, she said, adding that she was 'really pleased' to see an increase of £5.2bn going into flood defences as she urged government to recognise and reward farmers whose farmland is used to store floodwater.