HM Revenue and Customs Brief 46/11
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Issued 4 January 2012
Use of rebated fuel in grass cutting vehicles
In October 2011 HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) conducted
a review which considered whether there was scope for the extension of
red diesel entitlement to vehicles undertaking certain
community/charity activities. One aspect of community work considered
was the use of tractors to perform grass cutting of rural communal land
and recreation areas for no payment. The review concluded that there
should be no change to the current rules but that guidance should be
published to help those concerned to understand when it is permitted to
use red diesel in vehicles that are being used to cut grass.
Schedule 1 of the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979 lists the
categories of an excepted vehicle. Excepted vehicles are those which
are entitled to use rebated fuel. Vehicles which meet the requirements
of one of the following categories can use red diesel for cutting grass:
- unlicensed vehicles not used on public roads
- mowing machines
The rules for qualification in each of these categories are
explained in the following paragraphs.
Unlicensed vehicles not used on public roads
A vehicle that is not used on the public road and has no
licence 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). A vehicle for
which a SORN has been made is eligible to use red diesel. Unlicensed
vehicles that do not require a SORN may also use red diesel so long as
they are 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, and
(b) is used on public roads solely for:
(i) purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture or
(ii) cutting verges bordering public roads; or
(iii) cutting hedges or trees bordering public roads or bordering
verges which border public roads.
In the view of HMRC, landscaping and the maintenance of
recreational facilities are not agriculture, horticulture or forestry.
This view is in accordance with 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 Forest Industries, which defined
the activities that qualify as being agriculture, horticulture or
forestry. As a result, a tractor cannot use red diesel when travelling
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 a similar sort. However, a tractor can use red diesel
to cut grass if the grass is being cultivated for harvesting as fodder
or if it is growing on the verge of a public road.
In HMRC's opinion 'mowing machine' means either a
purpose-built mowing machine, or a vehicle which has been permanently
adapted for the sole purpose of mowing. A tractor with mowing equipment
attached to it is not a mowing machine, nor is a utilty vehicle to
which mowing machinery can be temporarily attached. However, a vehicle
consisting, for example, of a Land Rover chassis with permanently fixed
grass cutters, designed and constructed for cutting grass and suitable
solely for that purpose, would qualify in the mowing machine category.
To summarise, rebated fuel can only be used to perform grass
the vehicle is unlicensed and never uses the public road,
the vehicle is designed and constructed primarily for use
other than on roads and the grass being cut is being cultivated as
animal fodder or grows on the verge of a public road,
the vehicle is either a purpose-built mowing machine, or a
vehicle which has been permanently adapted for the sole purpose of
A vehicle not included in the above descriptions is not
eligible to use red diesel for cutting grass.
If you have any doubt about whether your vehicle qualifies to
use red diesel, please phone the Excise and Customs Helpline on 0845
About the Author
© Crown Copyright 2012.
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for educational / informational purposes only. Article reproduced by
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2012-01-07 13:24:16 in Tax Articles