Tuesday, April 17, 2007

More Taxes By Brown on the Countryside

Labour Ministers in Whitehall are considering plans for new rural taxes on farming. Gordon Brown’s review into town hall taxes, published on Budget Day, not only recommends higher council tax bands, regular council tax revaluations and new bin taxes, but also contains proposals to hike taxes on rural England.•

Business rates on agriculture: The small print reveals plans to hit agricultural land and buildings with business rates – which are currently exempt for the tax. Unlike council tax, business rates are not banded or capped – the bill is calculated as a set proportion of the notional yearly rental value of the property.

In total, the Government’s report estimates it could raise £300 million a year extra in taxes.

Farm houses hit: These plans would also hit rural home owners. Currently, if a countryside home is adjoined by fields or farm buildings, these are classed as agricultural and not taxed. Yet under these new tax plans, this would be deemed to be a ‘composite’ property and have to pay council tax on the home as at present, and business rates on top for the land and any farm building.

Council tax revaluation on rural areas: Alternatively, if the field or farm land was designated as a garden or the farm building was converted to domestic use in order to avoid business rates, then the home would be hit in the council tax revaluation and have to pay higher council tax. The revaluation handbook of Gordon Brown’s council tax inspectors, the Valuation Office Agency, has special ‘value significant’ codes to record and tax agricultural properties, gardens, outbuildings, plot size and views of fields. Having such features will push homes into higher council tax bands; in turn, the Government is planning to increase the number of bands – thereby increasing council taxes even more.

This will result in a double whammy of business rates on farms and fields across Rogate and Milland and an under-hand council tax revaluation and re-banding on homes in the countryside. “Hard-pressed farmers in Rogate and Milland will be horrified by the prospect of a massive increase in taxation at a time when they can ill afford it. I fear this will further undermine our rural economy, and force farmers to sell off their land to unscrupulous developers. Conservatives will vigorously oppose these plans for higher taxes.”


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