Farmers can apply for self-employed scheme

Declan McAleerDeclan McAleer
Declan McAleer | Freelance
The Chair of the Assembly’s Agriculture committee Declan McAleer MLA has welcomed confirmation from the Economy Minister Diane Dodds that farmers are eligible to apply to the Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

Mr McAleer said the scheme will enable farmers to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. HMRC plans to contact eligible farmers by mid-May 2020 and invite them to apply online or by an alternative means if this is not possible.

He added: ““The precise figure a farmer receives will be based on their average trading profit over the three tax years 2016/17; 2017/18 and 2018/19. HMRC will add together the trading profits for the three tax years then divide by three. This will be paid directly into the farmer’s bank account.

“Following the initial communication from the department, a number of farmers contacted me uncertain about their eligibility to apply as they do not claim Farmers’ Averaging Relief.

“On foot of these concerns I contacted the Economy Minister who has confirmed to me that applicants do not have to be in receipt of the Farmers’ Averaging Relief in order to apply to the SEISS.

“Whilst this clarification is very welcome news for farmers who meet the criteria, there are many small farmers, particularly in the ANC areas who struggle to break even each year due to increasing input costs and plummeting farm gate prices.

“The SEISS will not provide the support they need and they feel the loss of the ANC payment more profound this year.

“Whilst access to the Self Employed Income Support Scheme for farmers is very welcome, it is only part of the solution to this crisis. We are in an era of unprecedented market disturbance an we need Brussels and London to step up to the plate and co-fund the £105million agrifood support fund which has been proposed by the Agriculture Minister,” added Mr McAleer.

“Farm businesses are teetering on the brink of collapse and unless this support package is made available very soon I am afraid that many farmers may go out of business which would have wider repercussions for the security of our food supply”.

Meanwhile, the clarification has also been welcomed by Ulster Unionist Agricultural spokesperson Rosemary Barton.

Mrs Barton said: “I’m not sure why there should have been doubts about this as farmers are mainly self-employed, but the clarification is welcome. To qualify for the scheme I understand that you must earn at least 50% of your income from your self-employed business and support will be based on an average of your last three years accounts.

“I welcome DAERA being pro-active in relation to the farming community, they have submitted a bid of £105 million to the Department of Finance for farming support. We are mindful that other businesses have received or are going to receive the Business Support Grant or the Hospitality, Tourism & Retail Grant. During all of this the farming community have continued to produce their products and manage to play their vital role in the food supply chain.

“This has been done in a situation where the livestock marts have closed, beef and lamb prices have tumbled, milk prices are steadily reducing, and to add insult to injury we hear of a processor bringing in Polish beef to supply a UK supermarket.

“These are stressful times for all businesses, including agriculture, therefore they must not be forgotten element of the Coronavirus pandemic, they must receive due and reasonable support to ensure there is a food supply beyond this crisis.”

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