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Independent.ie

Monday 25 March 2019

Tax-free timber a key reason for forestry replanting obligation - Minister

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

One of the main reasons behind the obligation to replant forestry is the tax-free status timber sales have, according to Minister Andrew Doyle.

The Minister for State with responsibility for forestry Andrew Doyle has linked the forestry replanting obligation with the availability of tax-free timber sales during a recent debate over the forestry programme.

While he conceded that "it certainly is an issue", he said it must be borne in mind that all revenue from the sale of timber is tax-free. 

"This is called an afforestation programme, which is meant to increase the national forest estate. 

"It is difficult to know if we would even be given clearance to do so, but if we were to say that we do not have a replanting obligation - even if it is the case that most people would not opt for it - one has to consider the implications of the tax benefit that has been given through the establishment grant and premium payments that have been made tax-free, and indeed from the sale of the product. 

"One also needs to factor in, which is never mentioned, the carbon emissions that one will create by digging out and getting rid of root systems and returning that land to other use. 

"There may something that can be done with it by way of an option if we get our targets raised, but I would not like to speculate on that at the moment," he said.

Critics of the obligation say that it means people's land is tied indefinitely to forestry.

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Fianna Fail Senator Paul Daly said although people generally replant a forest when it is harvested, the obligation to commit to do so 20 years in advance of the harvest is off-putting and is keeping a lot of people out of planting forestry. 

"They do not want to sign a contract that almost constitutes a commitment on behalf of the next generation in 20 years' time. If we could remove this obligation from contracts, we would get more people to sign up to forestry," he said.

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