PRE-BUDGET SUBMISSION 2012
Mr. Michael Noonan, T.D.,
MINISTER FOR FINANCE
In 2010 exports of Irish food and drink grew by 11 per cent to almost €8 billion and the agri-food industry accounts for 10 per cent of total exports. This demonstrates the actual and potentially significant contribution which the agri-food sector can and is making to export-led economic recovery and growth.
One of the greatest challenges facing the agri-sector is the attainment of the targets in Food Harvest 2020. For years, farm fragmentation has been a limiting factor on many Irish farm holdings and provisions must be made to ensure that dairy farmers, in particular, have access to land in close proximity to the milking facilities i.e. the so called “milking platform”. ICMSA believes that the Government in Budget 2012 must align the drive to achieve Food Harvest 2020 with effective land policy and taxation measures. In this context, and as previously outlined in the ICMSA submission to the Minister on 29 August 2011, ICMSA is proposing a number of tax incentives to farmers to consolidate and increase the scale of their farm to create a viable future in farming.
The provision of adequate funding for farm schemes must be a key component of Budget 2012. ICMSA believes that a reduction of the agricultural budget in relation to funding of necessary farm schemes in recent Budgets will ultimately damage the productive and development capacity of the agri-sector required to achieve the targets set in Food Harvest 2020.
ICMSA believes that succession planning in farming is fundamental to the growth and development of farming and that there should be no further erosion of the various reliefs and exemptions with regard to capital taxation so that the family farm can be transferred from one generation to the next without incurring a capital tax liability.
In our Pre-Budget Submission, we have outlined a number of key balanced proposals which will address the relevant issues affecting farmers in the future and ensuring the attainment of Food Harvest 2020 goals in a profitable and cost efficient manner.
30 September, 2011.
Family Farm Taxation
1. Personal Tax
ICMSA believes that the differences in personal allowances for taxpayers based on their employment status represents an unfair and inequitable system and must be addressed in Budget 2012. As a result of cuts to personal tax credits in Budget 2011, the gap between PAYE and self-employed is further widened. ICMSA believes that an Earned Income Credit (as recommended by the Commission on Taxation) should be introduced for the self-employed and be equal to the PAYE allowance.
The Programme for Government states that, as part of their fiscal strategy, the Government will “maintain the current rates of income tax together with bands and credits”; ICMSA believes it is essential that the Government ensures there are no further increases in income tax or cuts to bands and/or credits.
2. Income Averaging
Many farmers have used Income Averaging as a management tool to deal with the inherent volatility in farming incomes. However, many farmers are unable to avail of income averaging. Under current taxation regulations, where a farmer and/or their spouse have an income from another trade or profession (except where the trade is provision of farmhouse holidays), he/she can no longer use income averaging. In addition, farmers who are currently availing of income averaging will be obliged to withdraw from the system if they or their spouse take on a trade or profession with the prospect of incurring a tax liability arising solely from the forced ending of Income Averaging.
All the experts point to increased volatility in farming incomes and the trend in more farmers – or their spouses or both – making an income from another trade or profession will continue to grow.
ICMSA believes that farmers or farmer spouses who take on a trade or profession resulting in an income up to €40,000 should be allowed to continue to avail of Income Averaging. The current regime acts as a disincentive for farmers or farmer spouses in creating new enterprise.
3. Pension Contributions
The current income tax relief for pension contributions must be maintained and the phased reduction in relief proposed in the National Recovery Plan will prove detrimental to private pension contributions. ICMSA are deeply dissatisfied with the Pension Levy introduced in June 2011 and it is a further stealth tax on private individuals providing for their future security. Pension fund management charges are excessive in many instances and ICMSA believes this is an issue which should be addressed by the Government in Budget 2012.
4. Property Tax
ICMSA is strongly of the view that the introduction of a Residential Property Tax must not disproportionately and adversely impact on family farm homes.
5. Farmers Using Companies to Manage Volatility
An increasing number of farmers are seeking to reduce their exposure to farm output price volatility by setting up companies. There are a number of anomalies which act as a disincentive for farmers in incorporating farm companies. For a farmer who wishes to retain ownership of his land personally, the remaining farm building allowances are lost on transfer to a company – the existing legislation states that “the interest” in the farm buildings must be transferred – the legislation should be changed to state “an interest” in the farm building should be transferred. By making this change, farmers can continue to claim unused capital allowances on farm buildings which will give the same relief that is available in respect of machinery.
- An Earned Income Credit (as recommended by the Commission on Taxation) should be introduced for the self-employed and be equal to the PAYE allowance.
- There should be no further increases in income tax or cuts to bands and/or credits.
- Farmers or farmer spouses who takes on another trade or profession resulting in an income up to €40,000 should be allowed to continue to avail of Income Averaging.
- The current income tax relief for pension contributions must be maintained.
- The introduction of a Residential Property Tax must not disproportionately and adversely impact on family farm homes.
- Barriers to incorporation for companies should be removed in particular the non carry over of unused farm building allowances.
Land Policy and Taxation
One of the greatest challenges facing the agri-sector in the attainment of the targets in Food Harvest 2020 is the efficient management of farm consolidation and access to land at a reasonable price. Farm fragmentation is a key feature on many Irish farm holdings and provisions must be made to ensure that dairy farmers, in particular, have access to land in close proximity to the milking facilities. ICMSA believes that the Government in Budget 2012 must match aspirations contained in Food Harvest 2020 with effective land policy and taxation measures. In this context, ICMSA proposes a number of tax incentives to farmers to increase the scale of their farm unit and create a viable future in farming.
1. Stamp Duty
With the abolition of milk quotas in 2015, farmers wishing to expand milk production will need access to land in close proximity to their milking facilities, commonly referred to as the ‘milking platform’. The Government must address the difficulties facing farmers wishing to consolidate their holdings and this is the limiting factor for many individuals trying to expand their dairy enterprises.
ICMSA believes that it is crucial full-time farmers wishing to enlarge their holding to grow their farm business into a viable unit must be allowed to do so with the minimum application of Stamp Duty. The Government took a decision not to extend Farm Consolidation Stamp Duty relief beyond 30 June 2011. ICMSA believes that the whole issue of consolidation as part of a progressive agricultural land policy must be reviewed. It is essential that the Government reintroduces Farm Consolidation Stamp Duty Relief but also the restrictive guidelines regarding whole parcel transfer must be addressed. When the relief did operate many individuals were unable to avail of this relief due to the fact that sub-parcels are being transferred. ICMSA proposes that in addition to full parcel transfer, sub-parcel transfer should also be allowed when these are clearly identified on a map as per normal identification required for conveyance.
ICMSA supports the Commission on Taxation proposal to continue Stamp Duty Relief for transfers to young farmers beyond the current expiry date of 31 December 2012.
Where a farm is owned personally and the farmer has operated a farm company, then on subsequent transfer of the farm and farm company to a successor, the young trained farmer relief for stamp duty should apply on the underlying land.
2. Capital Gains Tax
It is crucial that the transfer of a typical family farm can take place without incurring any tax liability and current Government policy is effectively penalizing any farmer wishing to consolidate his/her holdings in order to grow and expand their business.
ICMSA believes that Capital Gains Tax Rollover Relief should be introduced on a limited basis to allow for farm consolidation and parcel swaps for individuals wishing to expand their enterprise. This relief could be confined to a fixed period for reinvestment in agricultural property. Currently, farmers are being severely penalised for consolidating their holding when Stamp Duty and Capital Gains Tax at 25 percent are charged.
ICMSA is extremely concerned with proposals outlined in the National Recovery Plan which indicate that the current 25 percent Capital Gains Tax will be changed in 2012 to a system of differing rates for different levels of gains. In the event of theses increases, ICMSA believes the Government must reintroduce reliefs such as Indexation and Rollover Relief which were withdrawn in 2002 as a result of a reduction in Capital Gains Tax to 20 percent at that time.
Additionally, the ICMSA fully supports the Commission on Taxation proposal that Capital Gains Tax rollover relief should apply on gains on disposals of farm land pursuant to a Compulsory Purchase Order where the proceeds are reinvested in farm land.
It is vital for the future of Irish farming that farmers are in a position to retire and pass on their farm to the next generation free of capital tax. In this context, ICMSA believes that Capital Gains Tax Relief for disposal of a business or farm on retirement should continue as proposed in the Commission on Taxation Report.
ICMSA is opposed to the proposal to discontinue the Capital Gains Tax exemption on disposal of a site to a child.
3. Capital Acquisitions Tax
The tax-free thresholds for Capital Acquisitions Tax have been reduced twice, resulting in a reduction in the tax free threshold of nearly 40 percent since April 2009 and ICMSA believe that no further reductions should be applied to the current thresholds.
A key aspect of Budget 2012 should be to ensure that the early transfer of farms from one generation to the next is encouraged to ensure the competitiveness of the agricultural sector. In this context, ICMSA believes it is vital that the Agricultural Relief for Capital Acquisitions Tax is maintained at 90 percent of the value of the property because any downward movement from this will have a significant negative financial impact for farmers transferring land. If the current level is not retained it will result at best in the delay in transfer of land from one generation to the next or at worst turning farms into non viable operations. Any reduction in Agricultural Relief is in direct conflict with the attainment of the targets set in Food Harvest 2020.
4. Income Tax Relief and Leasing Land
The ending of the Early Retirement and Installation Aid Schemes has significantly hindered early farm transfer. ICMSA believes that the early transfer of land is essential to secure the future of Irish agriculture. Under the current tax code the same tax relief is not available to related persons as non-family transactions in land leasing arrangements and ICMSA believes this anomaly must be addressed in Budget 2012.
It is essential the current Income Tax relief for farm land leasing income is continued to ensure early farm transfer and farm consolidation.
- Reintroduction of Farm Consolidation Stamp Duty Relief and the detailed requirements relating to the Relief must be changed to allow for eligibility on basis of transfers that do not involve whole parcels.
- Stamp Duty Relief for transfers of land to young trained farmers should continue beyond the current expiry date of 31 December 2012.
Capital Gains Tax
- Rollover Relief should be introduced to allow for farm consolidation and parcels swaps. This could be restricted to a specific time limit for reinvestment in agricultural property.
- ICMSA is opposed to any increases in Capital Gains Tax. However, in the event of a change to the current mechanism and any increase in rates, ICMSA propose that the Government must reintroduce full indexation and rollover relief.
- ICMSA fully supports the Commission on Taxation proposal that Capital Gains Tax relief for disposal of a business or farm on retirement should continue.
- ICMSA supports the proposal that Capital Gains Tax rollover relief should apply on gains on disposals of farm land pursuant to a Compulsory Purchase Order where the proceeds are reinvested in farm land.
- ICMSA is opposed to the proposal to discontinue the Capital Gains Tax exemption on disposal of a site to a child.
Capital Acquisitions Tax
- There must be no further reductions in the Capital Acquisitions tax-free thresholds for gifts/inheritances in Budget 2012.
- It is vital that Agricultural Relief for Capital Acquisitions Tax in maintained at 90 percent.
Income Tax Relief and Leasing Land
- Extend the income tax relief to land leases between family members, where the lease is for a definite term of five years or more.
- Land leasing income tax relief must be continued post 2012.
Operating a Farm as a Company
- Where a farm is owned personally and the farmer has operated a farm company, then on subsequent transfer of the farm and farm company to a successor, the young trained farmer relief for stamp duty should apply on the underlying land.
Farm Investment Tax Incentives
1. Stock Relief
Medium to long term prospects for the dairy and livestock sector are, in general, positive as outlined in Food Harvest 2020. In order to achieve these targets, farmers must be allowed to expand their dairy enterprise in a cost-efficient manner.
The current 25 percent stock relief means that farmers expanding their enterprise are taxed on 75 percent of the additional investment, which in many cases is a substantial amount. ICMSA propose that 100 percent stock relief for increases in stock numbers should be extended to those who increase their herd size on a permanent basis, in order to encourage farmers who are expanding in line with the aspirations of Harvest 2020, with a claw back of relief in the event of disposal of the herd before the end of a specific period.
The existing regime of 25 percent stock relief for farmers and 100 percent relief for young trained farmers should also continue.
2. Capital Allowances
The normal write-off period for capital allowances on agricultural plant and machinery currently stands at eight years. This means that only 12.5 percent of the value can now be written off per annum as opposed to 20 percent previously allowed. ICMSA believes that farmers should be given a choice to write-off capital expenditure on plant and machinery and farm buildings over a period of three to eight years. The grant of allowances over a shorter term will stimulate farmers to invest for expansion and will also stimulate economic activity within Ireland at no overall cost to the exchequer.
3. Tax Relief for the Purchase of Milk Quota
ICMSA is strongly opposed to the proposal in the 2009 Commission on Taxation Report that tax relief for the purchase of milk quota be discontinued. Milk quota is an integral tool in the expansion of any dairy business and farmers wishing to expand their current business must not be discriminated against.
- 100 percent stock relief for increase in stock numbers should be extended to those who increase their herd size on a permanent basis with a claw back of relief in the event of disposal of the herd before the end of a specified period.
- The existing regime of 25 percent stock relief for farmers and 100 percent relief for young trained farmers should also continue.
- Allow farmers choose between three and up to eight year write off period for agricultural plant and machinery and farm buildings.
- Tax relief for the purchase of quota to continue.
Funding Farm Schemes
1. REPS and AEOS
The success of REPS in Ireland is clearly evident across the countryside with the added benefit of many farmers now committed to farming in an environmentally friendly manner. ICMSA believes that the introduction of AEOS 1 and, in particular, AEOS 2, has failed to provide an effective continuation for farmers leaving REPS 3. In Budget 2011, the Government halved the budget for AEOS resulting in the uptake in the scheme being much lower than anticipated. ICMSA believes that it is crucial that there are no further cuts to the agricultural budget for funding of REPS/AEOS in Budget 2012 and that current payment rates are retained.
A properly funded AEOS Scheme must be made available in 2012 for those farmers that have completed REPS 3 and REPS 4 contracts.
2. Disadvantaged Areas Scheme
Disadvantaged Areas Payments are a necessary direct income support across the country and ICMSA is totally opposed to any further cuts to these payments.
3. Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme
ICMSA believes that the The Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme current payment rates must not be subject to any cuts in Budget 2012.
4. Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS)
Adequate funding must be provided for the reopening of the Dairy Equipment, Sheep Handling and Fencing, Water Harvesting and Pig Welfare Schemes. There is 50 percent EU funding available for these schemes up to 2013 and on-farm investment in these schemes will provide significant economic activity in rural communities.
- ICMSA believes it is crucial that there are no further cuts to the agricultural budget for funding of REPS/AEOS in Budget 2012 and that current payment rates are retained and that a properly funded AEOS Scheme must be made available in 2012 for those farmers that have completed REPS 3 and REPS 4 contracts.
- ICMSA is totally opposed to any cuts in Disadvantaged Areas Payments.
- Current Suckler Cow Welfare Payments must be maintained in Budget 2012.
- Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes must be reopened.
1. Value Added Tax
The EU Commission has prepared a Green Paper on harmonization of VAT rates across the EU. ICMSA believe that any move to impose uniform rates across Member States will have serious implications for many activities of indigenous industries that currently are zero or reduced VAT rated. In addition, if the Commission changes the reduced rate to the standard rate of 21 percent, this will have a direct impact on farming costs both in terms of the cost of agricultural diesel but also farm inputs such as contractor charges. ICMSA believes that the imposition of this 7.5 percent, being the increase from 13.5 percent to 21 percent, will have a significant negative impact on farming activity and therefore farm output.
The National Recovery Plan provides for VAT rates to be increased to 23 percent by 2014. ICMSA believes that it is essential that any increase in VAT rates must be reflected in the Flat Rebate for farmers.
Farmers, in particular, use a number of products and services such as the recycling of waste products, maintenance of hedgerows, spreading of slurry with a ‘trailing shoe’ spreader and fencing of watercourses that fall into the environmental goods and services category. ICMSA believes that the current standard 21 percent VAT rate should be reduced to 13.5 percent which would provide significant savings for farmers. ICMSA believes that unregistered farmers should be allowed to claim back VAT on unfixed facilities such as slurry spreaders or irrigation systems that are used for pollution control measures.
The Renewable Energy Sector has been ignored in terms of the provision of adequate tax incentives to ensure the achievement of our National Energy Plan, the implementation of EU Directives and the link to large scale infrastructure for energy transmission and generation. ICMSA believes that there is an opportunity to make investment in renewable energy generation a much more viable option for many farmers and offer a much needed means of off-setting or reducing our carbon footprint. Currently, a significant barrier to the installation of a Wind Turbine on-farm is the fact that the cost is prohibitive for many farmers due to the substantial level of VAT incorporated in the price. Most farmers are not VAT registered and under current Revenue guidelines are unable to claim back VAT on electricity generating equipment such as Wind Turbines under the flat rate system for non-registered farmers. ICMSA believes that all micro-generators on-farm should be deemed as a farm activity and qualify under this system.
- ICMSA is opposed to EU Commission proposals for harmonisation of VAT rates across the EU.
- Any increase in VAT rates must be reflected in the Flat Rebate for farmers.
- All environmental goods and services used by farmers should be reduced from the current 21 percent VAT rate to 13.5 percent.
- Farmers should be allowed to claim back VAT on unfixed equipment used for pollution control measures.
- ICMSA believes that all micro-generators on-farm should be deemed as a farm activity and qualify for a VAT rebate under the flat rate system for unregistered farmers.
Higher Education Grants
1. Higher Education Grants
ICMSA is extremely concerned by proposals contained in the Hunt Report on a capital asset test as part of the eligibility criteria for Higher Education grants. ICMSA contends that farm assets are productive business assets. In addition, given the uniqueness of the assets particularly land, the market value of these assets bear little or no real relationship to the income that may be generated from the holding or the use of these assets.
ICMSA believes that thousands of farm families will be unfairly denied an opportunity to avail of third level education if farm assets are included as part of a means test.
Farm families must be treated in an equivalent manner to other sectors of society and ICMSA believes that family farm income must be the sole criterion used in any means test to establish entitlement to Higher Education grants where the family’s sole income is farm income.
We have made our points by letter to the Minister for Education and Skills, who stated in reply that statistics from the Higher Education Authority show that “39.7% of farmers’ children in first year were on higher education grants which is lower than ‘urban myth’ would have it”. He continued to state that “these new statistics should help inform a more reasoned debate, including the arguments that you make in your letter, about any changes that may be made in the present system to ensure greater equity. Let me assure you that I would not wish to see students from less well-off farm families excluded from grant eligibility”.
- Farm assets are productive assets and are essential to the survival of the business and must not be factored into any means-test for Higher Education Grants.
- Capital Allowances should be deductible for calculating reckonable income for student grant purposes.
Social Welfare Issues
1. Employer PRSI
ICMSA believes that the Government should honour commitments to reduce by 20 percent the 10.75 percent rate of employers’ PRSI on earnings up to €40k (effective rate of 8.75 percent).
2. Occupational Benefit
Given the high occupational risk faced by farmers as a result of constant contact with machinery and animals, it is the ICMSA view that the Occupational PRSI Risk Benefit should be extended to farmers.
3. Contributory Pensions and PRSI
An issue which must be addressed in Budget 2012, and will have minimal impact on the Exchequer, is the small number of previously self-employed persons that were compelled by law to make PRSI pension contributions from 06 April 1998. These individuals are now being excluded from a contributory pension because they did not have enough contributions made due to their age. ICMSA proposes that the Government should address the issue by providing those affected with less than five years contributions with the special 50 percent Contributory Old Age Pension which was introduced in 1999, for people with five (or more) but less than ten years PRSI contributions. ICMSA believes that those with five or more years contributions should qualify for the full Contributory Old Age Pension.
4. Jobs Initiative
ICMSA is in favour of the Governments jobs initiative. ICMSA believes that the inherent administrative complications within the social welfare system which act as an obstacle for employers looking to take on staff on a temporary basis should be removed. ICMSA understands that under current rules, persons in receipt of social welfare are reluctant to take on casual or temporary work due to delays in restoring their social welfare benefit at the end of that working period. ICMSA believes that this obstacle can be removed or reduced by allowing social welfare to continue and adjusting the tax credit or emergency tax credit system. This is an adjustment which will result in no loss to the Exchequer but will encourage recipients of social welfare back to work and thus actually reducing the cost of Social Welfare.
5. Farm Assist and Rural Social Scheme
Farm Assist is a vital means-tested income support for Irish farmers and has proven to be a life-line for many farm families due to the collapse in farm incomes in recent years and also the severe reduction in availability of off-farm income. ICMSA believes it is essential that Farm Assist is retained in its current form and rates.
The Rural Social Scheme has not only played a key role in the development of local communities but also provides much needed income for farm families in receipt of Farm Assist or other Social Welfare payments. ICMSA believes that the funding available for the Rural Social Scheme must not be targeted for reductions in Budget 2012.
- ICMSA believes the Government must honour commitments to reduce by 20 percent the 10.75 percent rate of employers’ PRSI on earnings up to €40,000.
- Budget 2012 should provide for Occupational PRSI Risk Benefits be extended to farmers.
- Those affected by the introduction of the mandatory PRSI contributions for the self-employed in 1998 should qualify for the special 50 percent Contributory Old Age Pension, where they have made less than five years contributions and a full Contributory Old Age Pension where they have more than five years contributions.
- ICMSA believes that individuals could be encouraged to take on part-time work by allowing social welfare payments to continue and adjusting the tax credit or emergency tax credit system accordingly.
- ICMSA believes it is essential that Farm Assist is retained in its current form and rates.
- ICMSA believes that the funding available for the Rural Social Scheme must not be targeted for reduction in Budget 2012.
Environment and Rural Development Measures
1. Carbon Tax
Since the introduction of the Carbon Tax there has been considerable additional costs imposed on farmers through the purchase of fuel and indirectly through the purchase of essential farm services, such as contracting costs for silage making, slurry spreading and the transportation of milk and livestock.
Teagasc estimated the cost of the carbon tax to the agricultural sector at €24m annually and that was assuming no increase in fuel usage. Given the projections of Harvest 2020 for increased production and the potential escalation in fuel usage, the carbon tax situation is a considerable concern for the agri-sector.
The National Recovery Plan proposes an increase in the carbon tax rate of €10/tonne in 2012. ICMSA is totally opposed to this increase and contends that it will significantly increase the costs of production and ultimately damage the competitiveness of the sector and discriminate against Irish exports on the international market.
ICMSA believes that a sectoral allowance or limited exemption must be introduced for the agri-food sector in order to protect the one key sector in our economy with significant potential for growth. Furthermore there is a Government commitment that the current carbon tax rate on agricultural diesel will not be increased.
2. Capital Grants for Small Scale Renewable Energy Production
In May 2010, the then Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources announced a proposed REFIT support scheme to be aimed at the use of biomass in electricity generation and heat production, however this scheme is yet to be introduced. ICMSA believes that this scheme must be introduced without delay.
The Programme for Government commits to the provision of a feed-in tariff for microgenerators producing electricity for their own homes, farms and businesses selling surplus electricity to the grid. ICMSA believes that if the Government is committed to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions coupled with a reduced dependency on fossil fuels associated with micro-generation then a realistic feed-in tariff must be introduced that provides for a realistic return on investment in order to encourage a significant uptake in the implementation of renewable energy on-farm.
- ICMSA believe there should be a sectoral allowance or limited exemption on the carbon tax for the agri-food sector and that, specifically, the current rate of carbon tax on agricultural diesel must not be increased.
- Government must introduce the REFIT support scheme immediately.
- Government must provide for an attractive Feed-in Tariff for micro-generators.