Farmers and landowners across England benefit from £2.4Bn a year of tax breaks not available to other industries, a new report from People Need Nature has revealed.
This is as much as farmers and landowners received in subsidies from the European Union Common Agricultural Policy in the year 2017-18.
People Need Nature believes that these tax breaks should be reformed so the tax system operates on the same principle as the reforms to Agricultural Support. This means tax benefits should only be available when they provide public benefits – such as carbon sequestration, reduction in flooding, providing flowers for bees and restoration of wildlife to farmland.
Miles King, CEO of People Need Nature said: “Nature benefits everybody in society. We know that people are happier the more time they spend in nature - and most of England is covered by farmland.
"At the moment this money is going to places it’s needed least and be paying for damage to the environment. Instead, we want to see these tax breaks redirected towards helping farmers who are working to restore nature to their farmland.”
An estimated £1.02Bn a year as a result of having to pay no business rates (National Non-Domestic Rates). Farmland and farm buildings were exempted from paying rates in the 1920s when agriculture fell into a deep depression and there was widespread abandonment of land.
Using figures previously calculated by academic, and updating them to reflect current rental values, farmland and farm buildings benefit from a tax break of over £1bn a year, in England.
Farmers benefit from diesel with a very low duty rate, much lower than other industries – leading to a loss of nearly £1Bn a year across the UK – and over £500M a year in England. Heavy users of Red Diesel, such as those engaged in intensive arable farming, benefit the most.
In addition, farmland benefits from 100 percent relief from Inheritance Tax – costing the Exchequer over £500M a year in lost revenue.
Recent research by the Tax Justice Network found that 261 families benefited from £209 million in agricultural property relief (APR) in just one year.
Marianne Brooker is The Ecologist's content editor. People Need Nature is a charity, which works to promote the sensory, emotional and spiritual value of nature to people in England and Wales.