THE TENANT FARMS ASSOCIATION has welcomed a report from the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV) indicating that there has been a significant improvement in the average length of Farm Business Tenancies (FBTs) in England and Wales.
Since the introduction of FBTs in 1995 the TFA has been concerned that average lengths of term have ranged between only 3 to 4 years. As a result the TFA launched the FBT10+ campaign in 2015, the 20th anniversary of the introduction of the new legislation, to argue that farm tenancies had been too short for too long and that urgent change was necessary.
The short-term nature of agricultural tenancies has held back progression, investment, sustainable land use and productivity on farms. With much higher demand for land than supply, landlords can offer short-terms, for high rents at very little risk whilst at the same time pocketing generous and unconstrained tax benefits which the TFA argues must be addressed.
TFA Chief Executive George Dunn said: “It is encouraging to see from the CAAV report that the average length of all FBTs has increased to 4.5 years and that excluding lettings of less than a year, the average was six years. This is a step in the right direction towards the goal of seeing average lengths of term in excess of 10 years and clearly the TFA’s campaign has had an impact in encouraging more sustainable tenancy lengths being brought forward. However still more needs to be done to encourage the landlord sector to offer the longer terms that we need to see.”
“The new Government must grasp the nettle to introduce measures to change the fiscal environment within which rural landlords make decisions about letting land to encourage longer term FBTs. The tenanted sector cannot begin to consider issues of resilience and sustainability in the post Brexit environment with average lengths of term on new FBTs of under 10 years,” said Mr Dunn.
The TFA is arguing for the following measures to be in the new Government’s first Budget:
(a) Restricting the generous, 100% Agricultural Property Relief from Inheritance Tax (currently available to all agricultural landlords, regardless of the length of time for which they let land) only to those landlords prepared to let farmland for 10 years or more (excluding rotationally let land on short terms for vegetable and other high value crops).
(b) Clamping down on those land owners who, through schemes promoted by agents and accountants, are using share farming, contract farming, share partnerships and grazing licences as thin veneers of trading activity and as vehicles for aggressive tax avoidance where they take no risk in the business, have little, if any, entrepreneurial input and lack any management control.
(c) Offering landlords prepared to let farm land for 10 years or more the ability to declare their income as if it was trading income for taxation purposes.
(d) Reforming Stamp Duty Land Tax to end the discrimination against longer farm tenancies.
“The TFA is pleased to see that the Government has reconvened the Tenancy Reform Industry Group and this must be a key element for it to consider alongside other important measures to provide a sustainable framework for the tenanted sector of agriculture in the post Brexit era,” said Mr Dunn.