Home Insights Consider tax on farm conversions

Consider tax on farm conversions

By Hugh Simpson
29th Jun 2023

Harvest 2023 is likely to be rather mixed, the current dry weather together with significant presence of blackgrass in winter crops, will likely suppress yields and with crop prices still a far cry short of the previous year, the need for diversified activities to help maintain a steady cashflow, particularly in the leaner years, is becoming more prevalent.

Several farming businesses have diversified activities into the supply of holiday accommodation, the simplest form being providing facilities for camping, but some businesses have been considering the more significant route of converting unused or dilapidated farm buildings into luxury holiday accommodation. Where the conversion route is being taken, this can have significant repercussions from a tax perspective, and I would strongly advise proper consideration in advance of any conversion works taking place.

How will the costs be treated for tax purposes? The poignant element to this is repairs attract full tax relief in the year of expenditure, whereas capital costs would be subject to capital allowance rules and may get no relief at all until the building is sold. The natural reaction is a large proportion of cost would be repairs to the existing building with only the alteration works being treated as capital. However, a change to the overall character/usage of a building would likely be regarded as capital expenditure with very little, if any, of the total cost allowable as repairs. The action of undertaking significant works to renovate a building in one go may further support the costs being treated as capital rather than repairs.

VAT should not be forgotten! Can VAT be recovered on the renovation costs? Does VAT need to be charged on the rentals? Unfortunately, the answer is, it depends!

Another tax consideration is the effect of the change of use of the building, such that if it is no longer used as an asset of the farming trade it may no longer qualify for certain reliefs under Inheritance Tax rules, specifically Agricultural Property Relief or Business Property Relief.

No two farming businesses are the same and one size most certainly does not fit all, so seek professional advice specific to your circumstances.