HMRC ends agricultural land tax scheme

The Government has shut down a 'contrived and aggressive income tax avoidance scheme' involving property business loss relief.

The scheme, which is being marketed to high net worth individuals as a way of reducing their end-of-year tax bill, sought to use a series of highly artificial transactions to generate tax relief from a property business that owns agricultural land. Although the land itself and the business owning it will exist, the transactions are not part of any genuine agricultural business. They are generated only to create an artificial loss that can be set off by users of the scheme against their other income to reduce their tax bill.

To close this scheme and protect the Exchequer from significant losses, the Government is introducing legislation in Finance Bill 2012 to prevent property business loss relief arising from tax motivated arrangements. The legislation will have effect from Tuesday 13 March.

This is the third contrived and aggressive avoidance scheme that HM Revenue & Customs HMRC has become aware of recently that has tried to target trading and property reliefs, and the Government recognises that further similar schemes may emerge. It is therefore introducing legislation in Finance Bill 2012 to prevent post cessation property relief being used artificially to avoid tax. This legislation will also have effect from today.

David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said: "At a time when our top economic priority is reducing the deficit, it is unacceptable for anyone to try to avoid paying a fair share. Today's action will not affect legitimate agricultural businesses, but by acting swiftly, the Government has prevented this scheme being used by people who want to escape paying the tax they owe. We won't hesitate to close other avoidance schemes down as we become aware of them."

Property business loss relief allows a person to claim a loss as a deduction from their general income for the year of the loss or the following year that arises from agricultural expenses or capital allowances.

Post cessation property relief allows a person to claim a deduction in their income tax calculation for certain payments and bad debts that arise after their UK property business has ceased.

The legislation will be in the 2012 Finance Bill. The draft legislation, together with an Explanatory Note and Tax Information and Impact Note, can be found on the HMRC website

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