SCOTTISH Land & Estates has welcomed the announcement by Chancellor George Osborne that the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) for plant and machinery will be increased tenfold from £25,000 to £250,000. The detail surrounding implementation of other areas of rural policy has however been questioned by the landowner representatives.
Scottish Land & Estates' Head of Policy, Sarah-Jane Laing, commented: "The increase in AIA will mean rural businesses can claim 100% capital allowances against their earnings on up to a quarter of a million pounds of equipment a year, for the two years from January 2013. The move is likely to kick-start investment in farm machinery, renewable energy projects and other diversified rural businesses.
Ms Laing said she was disappointed the Government still fails to recognise that many small rural businesses are not incorporated.
She continued: "The Chancellor's reduction in the Corporation Tax rate to 21 percent is of no use to a sole trader or partnership, the favoured business structures in the countryside.
"We welcome the introduction of the simpler system of cash-based accounting although the ceiling of £77,000 turnover means that it will be of little use. However, if the threshold were increased, it could be an excellent scheme and make a real difference to rural businesses."
Scottish Land & Estates also supported the Chancellor's cancellation of the fuel tax rise planned for January 2013. Ms Laing said: "For rural communities, this is particularly welcome."
Jamie Younger, from Saffery Champness, chairs the Scottish Land & Estates' Taxation Group. He looked at other positive aspects of the autumn statement for rural landowners but called for more detail on certain areas of policy already announced:
"From 2014/15 the pension annual contribution limit is being reduced from £50,000 to £40,000. For those with carry-forward entitlement there remains a window in which to maximise pension contributions before the limits change.
"It is good news that there are to be no new property taxes although the new rates of SDLT for more expensive property are of course already introduced and more detail may emerge on this in the coming days. As with other areas of policy it would have been good to see more detail in the supporting documents on how the Chancellor expects his policies to be implemented in practice.
"In another instance of 'small print' detail being required, HMRC needs to confirm that its definition of 'an affluent person', being someone whose tax affairs would be moved into that particular unit of HMRC for monitoring of their self assessment tax returns, has a net worth of £1million. HMRC will increase the level of resource going into the policing of tax compliance within this unit."