Noonan stands over €26m tax break for farms
FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan is standing over his decision to allow a tax break which will benefit up to 6,500 farmers and is worth an estimated €26m.
The tax break gives an exemption from capital gains tax to inactive farmers who sold their entitlements to EU single farm payments before May of this year.
The move meant the farmers would be cashing in their assets, leaving them subject to a substantial bill.
The change came about after representations made by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney. In documentation released under the Freedom of Information Act, officials told Mr Noonan the tax break was not warranted.
A Department of Finance spokesman said the advice from officials was finely balanced.
"The decision presented two courses of action," the spokesman said.
Mr Coveney sought the tax exemption for a group of farmers who were effectively required to transfer their farm payment entitlements, and therefore incur a tax liability as a result of a technical change in EU rules as part of the recent reform of the Common Agriculture Policy.
Under the new CAP arrangements, the 'Basic Payment Scheme' will replace the 'Single Payment Scheme' at the end of this year. The Department of Agriculture said payments under both schemes are based on entitlements.
To qualify for an allocation, the applicant must have received a direct payment in 2013. The value is then determined by the total value of entitlements owned in 2014.
"In the case of leased entitlements, the lessor owns the entitlements in 2014 and the lessee will have received the direct payment in 2013.
"As neither satisfies both the ownership and receipt elements, the entitlements would be lost to both parties unless action was taken.
"This situation arose because of the new EU CAP regulations and the definition of an 'active farmer', for which it has not proven possible to find a solution at EU level," a spokesperson said.