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HMRC Helpsheet : Farmers and market gardeners


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Guidance from HMRC

HS224 Farmers and market gardeners (2016)

Updated 7 April 2017


  1. Farmers’ averaging relief 2015 to 2016 and 2014 to 2015
  2. Stock valuation
  3. The herd basis
  4. Losses
  5. Compulsory slaughter
  6. Standard accounts information
  7. Contact

This helpsheet gives you information about special rules which can apply to farmers and market gardeners that prepare their accounts on accruals basis:

  • farmers’ averaging relief
  • herd basis
  • losses
  • the treatment of compensation for compulsory slaughter
  • some aspects of information from accounts in addition to those covered in Helpsheet 229 Information from your accounts
  • agricultural buildings allowance

These rules do not apply to farmers and market gardeners who work out their profits using the cash basis. For more information on the cash basis please see Helpsheet 222 How to calculate your taxable profits.

Farmers’ averaging relief 2015 to 2016 and 2014 to 2015

Provided certain conditions are met, a special relief is available to farmers and market gardeners under which they can claim to add together their profits from farming or market gardening for 2 years and be taxable on half the total for each of the 2 years. This helps to even out fluctuating results.

‘Farming’ includes the intensive rearing of livestock or fish on a commercial basis for the production of food for human consumption.

Averaging does not affect the amount of tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs) you pay for 2014 to 2015. The adjustments for both years are taken into account in your 2015 to 2016 tax and NICs. You should pay your 2014 to 2015 tax and NICs in full, even if averaging reduces your profit for that year, otherwise you may have to pay interest on unpaid tax and NICs.

Who can claim

Claims can be made by:

  • sole traders
  • partners, except people who joined or left the partnership in 2014 to 2015 or 2015 to 2016

You cannot claim if your business started or ended in 2014 to 2015 or 2015 to 2016.

How to claim: sole traders

Claim in box 72 in the Self-employment (full) pages.

How to claim: partners

Claim in box 11 in your ‘Partnership’ pages. If you wish to claim averaging, you are entitled to do so even if your partners decide not to claim.


The difference between the profits for the 2 years must be at least 30% of the profits of the year with the better result. To help people where the results are not quite so different, relief is also available on a special tapering scale where the difference is between 30% (full relief available) and 25% (no relief). Below 25% claims may not be made.

If you claim averaging and work out your tax, you must also work out the increase or decrease in your Income Tax and Class 4 NICs for 2014 to 2015. Make the alteration for 2014 to 2015 by adjusting your 2014 to 2015 tax. If the adjustment is an increase, enter the amount in box 14 on page TC 2 of your Tax calculation summary pages. If it is a decrease, enter the amount in box 15.


These notes cannot give detailed guidance on every situation. If you read these notes but cannot then work out your profits for 2015 to 2016 or 2014 to 2015, ask HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) or your tax adviser for more help.

Profit: sole traders

Profit means profits after capital allowances and balancing charges, see Helpsheet 222 How to calculate your taxable profits and Helpsheet 252 Capital allowances and balancing charges for more information.

For 2014 to 2015 and 2015 to 2016 your profit is the figure in box 64 or 65 on the Self-employment (full) pages, adjusted by any amounts in boxes 68 and 69. Losses count as zero.

If a profit has been averaged already, then the figure to use is the averaged profit. For example, if 2014 to 2015 had already been averaged with 2013 to 2014, the averaged profit will be shown in box 73 of the 2014 to 2015 Self-employment (full) pages.

Profit: partners

Your profit for 2014 to 2015 and 2015 to 2016 is the figure in box 8 of your ‘Partnership’ pages, adjusted by the figures (if any) in boxes 9 and 13.

Examples of averaging where profits differ by more than 30%

Example 1

John’s results are:

2015 to 2016 profit


2014 to 2015 profit


If averaging is claimed, the profit for each year becomes:

(£10,000 + £40,000) ÷ 2 =


This applies even if the £40,000 for 2014 to 2015 was the result of an averaging claim for 2014 to 2015 and 2013 to 2014. John’s 2015 to 2016 profit is increased by £15,000 and this increase must be entered in box 72 of the Self-employment (full) pages or box 11 of the ‘Partnership’ pages.

Example 2

Ian’s results are:

2015 to 2016 loss


2014 to 2015 profit


The loss counts as zero when averaging is computed so the average result for each year is:

(0 + £32,000) ÷ 2 =


Ian’s 2015 to 2016 profit is increased from £0 to £16,000 and this increase of £16,000 must be entered in box 72 on page SEF 4 of the Self-employment (full) pages (or box 11 of the ‘Partnership’ pages if Ian is a partner).

The loss of £20,000 should be entered in box 77 (box 21 for partners). Unless there are any adjustments in boxes 68 and 69 (boxes 9 and 14 for partners), this figure will be the same as the figure in box 67 (box 8 for partners).

The change in the profits for 2014 to 2015

A claim to averaging for 2015 to 2016 and 2014 to 2015 deems there to be a change to your income for 2014 to 2015. If, as a result, you wish to change other claims to relief for 2014 to 2015, you can do so when making the averaging claim, but averaging does not change your actual income or your tax bill for 2014 to 2015. Depending on whether your 2014 to 2015 profit goes down or up as a result of averaging, relief is given or the extra tax is charged by way of an adjustment to your tax liability for 2015 to 2016.

If you claim averaging and you work out your tax and Class 4 NICs, you must also:

  • work out the increase or decrease in your tax and Class 4 NICs for 2014 to 2015 which would have happened if you had amended your 2015 tax return because of the changed profit including any consequential changes (for example, because changing the profit changes the limits for Retirement Annuity Relief)
  • enter the adjustment in box 14 (increases) or box 15 (decreases) on your Tax calculation summary pages for 2015 to 2016

If the profits differ by between 30% and 25% of the profit for the year with the better result

In that situation you can claim to have a special sum deducted from the profit for the higher year and added to the profit for the lower year. This sum is computed by multiplying the difference by 3 and subtracting 75% of the profit for the higher year.

Example where profits differ by between 30% and 25%

Example 3

Liz’s results are as follows:

2015 to 2016 profit


2014 to 2015 profit


The difference is £14,000 which is between £15,000 (30% of the higher figure) and £12,500 (25% of the higher figure) so Liz can reduce the higher figure and increase the lower figure by:

(£14,000 × 3) minus (£50,000 ×75%) =


The reduction of £4,500 to Liz’s 2015 to 2016 profit must be entered, with a minus sign, in box 72 of the Self-employment (full) pages or box 11 of the ‘Partnership’ pages.

If your profits change

Any averaging claim you have made in your tax return will lapse if your profits for either 2015 to 2016 or 2014 to 2015 change. Provided the time limit for amending your tax return has not expired, you can make a claim to average the changed profits by amending your tax return, whether or not you originally made a claim.

Even if the time limit for amending your tax return has expired, you can still make a claim if you used averaging to compute your taxable profit before the profits changed. You cannot amend the tax return yourself but you should write to HMRC to ask for any necessary adjustments to be made. Do not delay writing because there is a time limit.

Stock valuation

Partners can ignore this section when completing the ‘Partnership’ pages.

Helpsheet 232 Farm and stock valuation explains the methods of farm and stock valuation which are acceptable to HMRC.

There is only space to enter a single figure for stock in box 85 of your Self-employment (full) pages or box 3.101 of your Partnership Tax Return.

You may provide a breakdown of that figure in the ‘Any other information’ box 103. Providing this information with your tax return may help avoid enquiries.

The herd basis

Partners can ignore this section when completing the ‘Partnership’ pages.

What the herd basis is

The herd basis is a special method of working out profits or losses which may be used by people who keep production livestock. If you use the herd basis you will need to keep records so that you can identify the figures to be used when applying the special rules.

As a normal rule, farm animals are dealt with as trading stock. However, some farm animals - those which are kept by farmers not primarily for resale but for the sake of the products (for example, milk or eggs) or offspring (for example, lambs or piglets) which they produce - are in many ways more like capital assets of the farmer’s business. Tax law recognises this by giving farmers the option of dealing with such ‘production animals’ under the herd basis. It provides a set of rules whereby a herd or flock of production animals is excluded from trading stock and treated, in most but not all circumstances, like a capital asset.

A farmer must elect for the herd basis, otherwise the animals are treated as trading stock. The election must specify the class of animals concerned and, once it has been made, the herd basis must be used for as long as the farmer continues to keep animals of that class. The election has to be made soon after the farmer first starts keeping animals of that class, and then the herd basis applies to those animals from the outset. There is a further opportunity to elect to use the herd basis if a herd or a substantial part of it (20% or more) is compulsorily slaughtered.

The effect of electing for the herd basis

Where a herd basis election is in force, the treatment for the purpose of computing farming profits of the herd or herds covered by the election is governed by the special rules. Very briefly they are:

  • the initial cost of the herd is not an allowable deduction, nor is the cost of any subsequent increase in herd size
  • the net cost of replacing animals in the herd (but not any element of improvement) is an allowable deduction
  • where the odd animal, or just a few animals (amounting to less than 20% of the herd), are sold from the herd and not replaced, the resulting profit or loss is taken into account in arriving at the farming profits
  • where the whole herd, or a substantial part (20% or more) of the herd, is sold and not replaced, the resulting profit or loss is not taken into account

The herd basis can also apply where animals are jointly owned, for example, in some share-farming arrangements. There are more special rules for particular situations.

Adjustments to be made in the self-employment pages of your personal tax return or the Partnership Tax Return

If you have made a herd basis election then you should include the herd in box 84 of your Self-employment (full) pages.

It may be helpful if you provide in the ‘Any other information’ box 103 a breakdown of the figures showing the number and cost of the animals. Similarly, you can use box 103 to explain any herd basis adjustments in your accounts or how you worked out the adjustments in boxes 60 to 62. Providing this information with your tax return may help to avoid enquiries.

To get to the taxable profit, special adjustments may be needed to the profits shown by the accounts. This will depend upon the way the herd is accounted for. You should deal with these adjustments by making entries in boxes 32 to 46 to remove profits or losses which have been included but which are not taxable, and/or expenses which have been included but which are not allowable. If you have included a sum, which is not taxable in your business turnover, in box 15, then you should make the adjustment in box 62.

For example:

  • an animal dies and is replaced by a better animal costing £200 more than a replacement of the same quality as the one that died. Because of the way the accounts are prepared, the cost of the replacement is included in box 17 – the £200 which is not allowable should be included in box 32
  • a substantial part of a herd is sold and the profit of £10,000 is included in box 29 – it is not taxable so it should be adjusted by a negative entry in box 44 – if the profit had been included in business turnover at box 15 then the adjustment would be made in box 62
  • the following year the herd in the previous example is replaced – the cost of the replacements is included in box 17 – the proceeds of sale of the herd sold the previous year now become taxable and must be added to the profit. Make the adjustment in box 60 and put a note in the ‘Any other information’ box 103 to explain the adjustment
  • a home-bred dairy cow is added to a herd – the cost of breeding it is included in the various expenses in the accounts – the farmer’s records are inadequate to calculate the cost accurately. The cost is estimated at 60% of market value (see Helpsheet 232 Farm and stock valuation – if the sum to be disallowed has been included in sales, then no further adjustment is required – otherwise the sum to be disallowed should be included in box 32 – if an adjustment is needed but you are not sure where to put it, please include it where you think best and use the ‘Any other information’ box 103 to say what you have done

If you would like more information about the herd basis ask HMRC or your tax adviser.


Most losses can be claimed against other income, but there are special rules which restrict your ability to claim if your farm is uncommercial or if you had a run of losses (worked out before capital allowances) of more than 5 years. Please see Helpsheet 227 Losses before making a claim. For more information, ask HMRC or your tax adviser.

From 2015 to 2016 there is a limit on the amount of income tax relief that an individual may claim for deduction from their total income in a tax year. The limit in each tax year is the greater of £50,000 or 25% of the individual’s adjusted total income. If you are, or think you could be, impacted by the limit, please see Helpsheet 204 Limit on Income Tax relief.

Compulsory slaughter

Compensation for compulsory slaughter is normally treated as sale proceeds whether or not the animal concerned is part of a production herd accounted for on the herd basis. Where the animals slaughtered are not on the herd basis and could not be (even with the fresh opportunity to elect for herd basis following compulsory slaughter of more than 20% of a herd), you can use Extra Statutory Concession B11 to remove the profit arising from the year of slaughter and bring it in equal instalments over the next 3 years. Use box 62 to show profits removed and box 60 to show profits brought back in and put an explanation in the ‘Any other information’ box 103.

Standard accounts information

General guidance on the completion of pages SEF 2 and SEF 5 of the Self-employment (full) pages (or pages 3 and 5 of the Partnership Tax Return is contained in the notes on those pages.

Helpsheet 229 Information from your accounts gives more advice on transferring figures from accounts to the tax return and includes 2 examples of a general nature.

The accounts produced for farming businesses have traditionally included more detail than those for other businesses of a comparable size. Examples 4 and 5 show how the figures from one such set of accounts could be used to complete the standard accounts information sections of the Self-employment (full) pages or Partnership Tax Return.

The accounts are intended to be broadly realistic, but figures are illustrative only. They do not necessarily reflect our views on what may or may not be acceptable in any particular case.

For most businesses the information on the Self-employment (full) pages or Partnership Tax Return, together with any entries in the ‘Any other information’ box considered necessary, will allow a full and fair picture of your business to be presented.

In some larger or more complex businesses, this may not, on its own, provide an adequate means of disclosure. You should consider submitting more information including, where necessary, accounts and supporting calculations where:

  • a large farming business has a substantial turnover
  • the farming business is complex (perhaps because it is highly specialised or diversified)
  • accounts and/or a note of the calculations are required for a proper understanding of the figures

You must also complete the standard accounts information sections of the tax return.