HM Revenue and Customs Brief 35/09
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issued 28 July 2009
Use of rebated fuel in grass cutting vehicles
This brief is intended to help users of diesel fuelled grass cutting
vehicles, such as local authorities, golf course operators and ground staff to
decide whether the vehicle should be run on red or white diesel.
Schedule 1 of the Hydrocarbons Oil Duties Act 1979 lists the categories of
excepted vehicle. Excepted vehicles are those which are entitled to use rebated
fuel. The three categories which vehicles undertaking grass cutting work could
fit into are:
- unlicensed vehicles not used on public roads
- mowing machines
Unlicensed vehicles not used on public roads
A vehicle that is not used on the public road and has no license under the
Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 is an excepted vehicle. If a vehicle
has become untaxed since 31 January 1998 it requires a Statutory Off-Road
Notification (SORN). Such vehicles are eligible to use red diesel if a SORN
declaration has been made. Unlicensed vehicles that do not require a SORN will
continue to be able to use red diesel without a SORN declaration if kept
off-road. Consequently a tractor, mower or utility vehicle used for grass
cutting which never goes on the public road can be fuelled on red diesel.
To qualify in the ‘Tractors’ excepted vehicle category the vehicle must be an
agricultural tractor which the legislation defines as one that:
(a) is designed and constructed primarily for use otherwise than on roads,
(b) is used on public roads solely for:
(i) purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture or forestry
(ii) cutting verges bordering public roads
(iii) cutting hedges or trees bordering public roads or bordering verges which
border public roads
The explanatory memorandum that accompanied The Excepted Vehicles (Amendment
of Schedule 1 to the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979) Order 2007 stated that
HMRC and industry representatives would establish and publish a code of practice
that defines which activities are (for the purposes of red diesel entitlement)
regarded as being agriculture, horticulture or forestry.
The resulting document was the Memorandum of Agreement signed in January 2008
by HMRC, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the National Farmers’ Union,
the National Association of Agricultural Contractors and the Confederation of
The Memorandum states that landscaping and the maintenance of recreational
facilities are not agriculture or horticulture. As a result a tractor cannot use
red diesel when traveling on the public road to or from a job involving grass
cutting/maintenance work at golf courses, playing fields, parks, cemeteries or
other grassed areas of this type. A tractor can however undertake grass
management work when the grass is being cultivated for harvesting as fodder and
the legislation specifically permits the cutting of grass verges that border
The mowing machine excepted vehicle category does not place limitations on
what the mower can do. Consequently any vehicle which is a purpose built mower
used exclusively for mowing qualifies to use red diesel regardless of the type
of grass cutting it undertakes or its use of the public road. A tractor with
mowing equipment attached is not however a purpose built mower. It does not
therefore qualify in the mowing machine category and only qualifies in the
tractors category when undertaking qualifying work.
Any type of utility vehicle with removable mowing machinery is not a purpose
built mower. However a vehicle consisting for example of a Land Rover chassis
with permanently fixed grass cutters, designed and constructed for grass cutting
and used solely for that purpose, would qualify in the mower category.
If you have any doubt about whether or not your vehicle or activity
qualifies, please contact the National Advice Service on Tel 0845 010 9000.
About the Author
© Crown Copyright 2009.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-08-08 00:35:40 in Tax Articles