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Farming news – December 2019

The latest agricultural stories from The Business Barn.

Last updated: 11 Feb 2020 5 min read

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The British Pig & Poultry Fair is returning on 12 – 13 May 2020.

Launch of the UK’s first rural business conference

In what is billed as a UK first, a conference solely dedicated to businesses in the rural sector that are looking to grow and innovate will take place on 29 January in Macclesfield, Cheshire, with NatWest a supporting sponsor.

Speakers at Cultivate will include Ross McMahon, CEO of Kendal Nutricare, who went from dairy farmer to multi-award-winning entrepreneur; and Jane Lane, who helped turn her family farm into a £100m-turnover business. Other speakers will discuss such areas as the art of delegation and the seven habits for highly effective leadership.

Delegates can also take part in ‘mastermind’ workshops to help them identify obstacles in their growth strategy and find ways to overcome them.

“These ‘mastermind’ sessions are designed to be problem-solving,” says event co-organiser Andy Venables, managing director or rural marketing agency Hillsgreen, “getting businesses talking to and learning from each other and providing tactics that can be implemented the next day on the farm or in the rural business.”

Tickets start at £125, plus VAT, for the full day.

Farmers could be owed thousands in overpaid council tax

Rural business owners and farmers could recoup substantial sums in overpaid council tax for buildings and houses that have been valued incorrectly, says property consultancy Fisher German.

Mixed-use developments such as farms, fisheries and rural business parks are particularly prone to over-valuation.

“The banding system for council tax is quite outdated,” says Stephen Buckingham, an associate at Fisher German. “Essentially, properties are assigned a band based on what their property was worth in 1991. This can lead to some widely inaccurate valuations that local authorities haven’t had the capacity to check or update.”

Buckingham explains that evidence of a potential overpayment can be sent to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), which refers its findings to the local authority for a calculation of the difference. A refund is then made to the name on the account.

“This saving is then backdated to whenever the occupier moved in,” says Buckingham. “For example, a band reduction from G to F, backdated to April 1993, could mean a refund of around £6,000.”

In one case Buckingham handled, a farmer was awarded a backdated refund of £20,000 on a property he should not have been paying any tax on at all.

“It can take as little as eight weeks for the refund to be processed, so farmers and business owners should seriously consider reviewing their council tax banding,” he advises.

Rural businesses in the spotlight for HMRC

HMRC has rural businesses in its sights when investigating breaches in the National Minimum Wage (NMW).

According to chartered accountancy Saffery Champness, HMRC on the lookout for anomalies, whether they’re arrears or errors, with particular focus on the number of workers who are being underpaid.

“HMRC has a non-negotiable 200% penalty on all arrears found going back up to six years, for current and former workers,” explains Angela Ferguson, director at Saffery Champness’s Manchester office. This is reduced to 100% if paid within 14 days. “Moreover, when arrears total more than just £100, HMRC policy is to name and shame the employer,” Ferguson warns.

The firm recommends that farms, estates, equestrian and other land-based businesses be aware of potential breaches in several key areas:

  • Deductions from pay for goods, stabling, food or salary-sacrifice arrangements.
  • Provision of benefits such as accommodation. Where rent-free accommodation is provided, the ‘accommodation offset’ is added to pay for NMW purposes, but if the employee is charged rent, this should be deducted.
  • Deducting the cost of uniforms or equipment if they haven’t been provided by an employer and are required for the role.
  • Volunteers – HMRC is questioning whether these are actually volunteers or workers for NMW purposes. Any agreements, including promise of a contract or paid work in the future, must be drawn up with care. Volunteers can receive expenses payments but flat-rate payments should be avoided, as these would make them a worker and so entitled to the NMW.

British Pig & Poultry Fair back for 2020

The British Pig & Poultry Fair 2020 returns on 12 – 13 May at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, hosting more than 360 exhibitors and aiming to attract around 10,000 visitors.

Attendees will have the opportunity to meet and hear from experts, leading producers and suppliers, as well as explore the latest technological innovations in the sectors.

Exhibitors will be showcasing products and services connected to animal health, breeding and genetics, feed and nutrition, housing, ventilation and handling equipment, legislation, environmental impact, animal welfare and renewable energy, among other areas.

Two new ‘technical theatres’ at the event will focus on sector-specific ideas and innovations.

Details of confirmed exhibitors and information for visitors can be found here .

For more rural business news and information, visit The Business Barn .

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