TFA: Farmers with delayed payments should be able to delay tax bill

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has suggested that farmers whose Government payments are delayed should be allowed to delay the payment of their tax bills.

The organisation had been pressing for urgent action to assist farmers awaiting payments under Government schemes such as the Basic Payment Scheme, Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship.

Although the Rural Payments Agency has improved its performance in making payments through the BPS, a number of farmers still awaiting payments are also in the queue for payments through environmental schemes.

Cash flow problems

TFA farm policy adviser Lynette Steel said the delays were causing cash flow problems for many farming families.

“Although the Rural Payments Agency managed to hit targets to make payments to over 90% of farmers by the end of 2018, there are still many farm businesses awaiting long-overdue payments for environmental schemes,” she said.

“Farmers have met their obligations under these schemes and the Government must take responsibility for its side by making these long-overdue payments.

Taking part in these schemes is not without cost and payments only provide farmers with income foregone. Payment delays are causing major cash flow issues.

Steel explained that the issue was further exacerbated by “inadequate communication” from the Government agencies involved.

“Poor communication with those who are owed money adds additional frustration,” she said.

“Farm businesses trying to plan their cash flows have no idea when they might be able to expect payment. With tax bills and rent demands due, without bridging payments, many farm businesses will be forced into dire financial difficulty.”

The TFA has consistently made the case that the Government must provide some form of bridging payment to individuals awaiting payment whilst their claims are finalised.

“It is not unreasonable to ask the Rural Payments Agency to make bridging payments to affected farmers. Farmers are expected to abide by scheme rules and have a legitimate expectation to be paid on time. They cannot operate with such lengthy delays. These bridging payments should start with those individuals who have received neither payment under the BPS or their agri-environment scheme,” added Lynette.

“So far, the Rural Payments Agency has committed to looking at making bridging payments to those with outstanding claims at the end of March. This is far too late. Bridging payments must be mobilised as a matter of urgency,” she said.