Wednesday 28 September 2016

Budget windfall for forestry as 'unfair' tax regime to go

Published 16/09/2015 | 02:30

Measures in the budget will encourage more woodland planting
Measures in the budget will encourage more woodland planting

Farmer with forestry plantations will benefit under new tax break measures in the Budget to encourage more woodland planting, the Farming Independent has learned.

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The Coalition's attempt to create a more 'equitable' taxation system for farmers and the self-employed will see tax measures currently available to other agriculture sectors made available to the forestry industry.

Under measures expected to be unveiled in next month's Budget, forestry owners will be able to average income earned over five years.

Department of Agriculture sources admitted there has been an "unfairness" in how the forestry industry is taxed.

"If you have a bad year and a really good year, presently in all other sectors of agriculture, you can average your income out so you can pay an average amount of tax every year rather than a big loss when you might have it spent," a source said.

The move comes as the government is trying to make forestry more attractive and create 'carbon sinks' in a drive to meet our climate change commitments.

It is hoped the changes to the taxation system will benefit forest owners who may face hefty tax bills after waiting for 35 years to fell trees.

Agriculture tax consultant Martin O'Sullivan said the main issue facing the forestry sector is the income threshold as earnings from forests will generally be earned in one year.

"Forestry is not taxable during the lifetime of a plantation, but when the plantation is eventually clear-felled all the money comes in together for the timber," he said. "The difficulty is that the various tax exemption measures have an upper limit and the limit would be easily breached with forestry income because you have 35 years of produce all coming in together."

The Irish Timber Growers Association had warned in a submission to the Food Wise 2025 strategy that the current forestry taxation system is a "disincentive" to the climate change measures.

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