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Red Diesel: Arboriculture exemption recognised by HMRC

Author:  Arboricultural Association
Last Updated:  16/03/2023

After many months of lobbying government to seek clarification on the use of red diesel in arboriculture, the Arboricultural Association is pleased to confirm a new measure which will allow arborists to use rebated fuels in machines and appliances (but not vehicles) for all forms of tree work, as they could before the changes made in April 2022.

HMRC has recognised that the situation created unintended difficulties for arboriculture businesses whose work requires them to use their machines and appliances for a combination of allowed and no longer allowed purposes.

Below are the relevant excerpts from the new measure, as well as a link to the HMRC Amendment in full.

On receiving the news, Arboricultural Association CEO John Parker said:

“This is great news for the arboricultural sector and will ensure that the changes to red diesel usage which were introduced in 2022 will no longer have a detrimental impact on arborists. The Association is delighted to have successfully influenced government on this matter, and many thanks are due to HMRC and Treasury officials who were so open to listen to the concerns of our members. It is also very positive to see that government has clearly acknowledged the importance of arboriculture as a key profession in delivering its environmental and levelling up ambitions.”

HMRC: Amendments to entitlement to use rebated fuels

View HMRC Amendment

Excerpt: General description of the measure

This measure introduces minor amendments to changes that were introduced in April 2022 to restrict the entitlement to use rebated diesel and biofuels, including marked oils. The changes were legislated for in Finance Act 2021 and amended by Finance Act 2022.

These amendments will:

Add arboriculture to the list of activities for which machines and appliances (other than vehicles) can use rebated fuel, a clarification which will allow those working in this sector to use rebated fuel in the same machines and appliances as they did before April 2022.

Excerpt: Background to the measure - Arboriculture

As part of the reforms introduced in April 2022, machines and appliances can continue to use rebated fuel for purposes relating to horticulture and forestry. The government has subsequently become aware that because HMRC’s interpretation of horticulture and forestry does not include some aspects of arboriculture, machines used for these purposes can no longer use rebated fuel following the 2022 reforms. For example, tending trees in parks and gardens is accepted as a purpose relating to horticulture but tending trees in streets and housing estates is not. Also, the upkeep and management of forests is only accepted as a purpose relating to forestry when growing and harvesting timber.

The government recognises that this has created unintended difficulties for arboriculture businesses whose work requires them to use their machines and appliances for a combination of allowed and no longer allowed purposes. This measure will allow arborists to use rebated fuels in machines and appliances (but not vehicles) for all forms of tree work as they could before the changes made in April 2022.

Excerpt: Impact on business including civil society organisations - Arboriculture

Arboriculture The measure will reduce the financial burdens of arborists who would otherwise have had to flush out the fuel tanks of their machines when they switched between allowed and non-allowed uses of rebated fuel. There will be some one-off transitional costs for arborists to familiarise themselves with the new rules but as most will be effectively returning to systems they operated before April 2022 this will be minor.

Red Diesel in Arboriculture: Background Information

The Arboricultural Association has been working since 2021 to address the ongoing impact on arboriculture of changes to red diesel exemptions which came into effect in April 2022.

In 2021 the government announced that it would be removing the entitlement to use red diesel from most sectors. The change came into effect on April 1st 2022. Unfortunately, arboriculture was not actually mentioned in the new regulations, creating significant difficulties for arboriculture businesses whose work requires them to use their machines and appliances for a combination of allowed and no longer allowed purposes.

After months of lobbying government, members of parliament and relevant ministers, a meeting was secured between Association CEO John Parker and Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs in April 2022 to discuss the impact on arboriculture of the recent changes to red diesel exemptions.

Finally, on 16th March 2023, having listened to the concerns of our members’ and the industry, HMRC was able to confirm their resolution of the issue through ‘Measure 4047: Amendments to entitlement to use rebated fuels’.

The Association would like to thank HMRC and the Treasury for their willingness to meet and for giving us the opportunity to present our members’ concerns. We’re pleased that the government has understood and addressed the issue, providing a satisfactory resolution and recognising the importance of the arboricultural profession.

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