HMRC clarify position on using red diesel when helping to clear roads after storms

In the wake of recent storms, concerns have been raised in relation to farmers being able to help clear roads of fallen trees and snow in future, due to changes to the use of red diesel.

Social media has been awash with posts stating farmers and contractors will be unable to help with the clear up on rural roads after 1 April, unless they wash out their tanks and refill with white diesel.

One such post stated, “after April of this year we will not be able to help clear the trees” as HMRC ‘have the powers to seize those vehicles’ if red diesel is being used.

Another social media post said a “network of community help that has operated for years, essential in helping to keep rural roads open during storms, will simply be unable to help”.


Indeed, Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart called on HMRC to clarify what the rules will be under such circumstances.

She said: “As another storm passes, we can thank the many farmers and workers who voluntarily help to remove trees and debris from public roads.

“After 1 April 2022, HMRC will remove the entitlement to use red diesel for most non-agricultural work purposes.

“This will hit many hard financially, from building construction to even charity tractor runs.”

Ms Lockhart continued: “The recent storms have raised a very important query.

“HMRC need to urgently clarify whether the clearance of fallen trees from storms on public roads is permitted with red diesel from 1 April.

“Otherwise, many will no longer help given the impracticalities of emptying their fuel tank and clearing the fuel filters before filling up with more expensive white diesel.

“Published guidance on the changes is far from clear on this specific issue.

“A major re-think of their exemptions list is needed before it is too late!” she ended.

The Farming Life contacted HMRC this week to clarify their position in relation to agricultural vehicles, running on red diesel, being used to help clear roads following a storm.

A spokesperson from HMRC confirmed they will continue to take the same “pragmatic approach” they have always taken.

“From 1 April 2022, agricultural vehicles such as tractors will be able to use rebated fuel on public roads for purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture, forestry and fish farming, as well as cutting trees, verges and hedges that border a road, clearing snow, gritting and dealing with flooding,” the spokesperson outlined.

“The activities accepted as falling within the definition of agriculture, horticulture and forestry are defined in HMRC Excise Notice 75.”

They added: “HMRC has always taken a pragmatic approach to farmers offering their tractors to help local communities clearing up after extreme weather events, and will continue to do so.”