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Charnley v HMRC - the case and the wider implications

The important consequences of a new case regarding the eligibility of a farmhouse for APR.

A new case regarding the eligibility of a farmhouse for APR came before the First Tier Tribunal in July, and was published in October. Thomas Gill, a Lancashire farmer died aged 79 in 2013. He had previously farmed more actively, but in recent years he had come to an agreement whereby another farmer (Mr Blacklidge) put his cattle on Mr Gill’s land and Mr Gill carried out the management functions on the land and also looked after the cattle on a day to day basis. HMRC sought to deny relief on the house and buildings on the basis that the deceased was not carrying out the trade of farming and therefore were not occupied in the course of that trade. They also pointed out that documentation suggested that the land was held under a lease or licence. Relief on the farm land was not in dispute.

In defence the executors pointed out that Mr Gill was very “hands on” with the cattle, rounding them up and moving them as required and even advising Mr Blacklidge when vaccinations were due. Effectively it was a cooperative venture between two farmers or in the words of Mr Blacklidge, Mr Gill was “farming his land using my stock”. Other factors were that there was a small vegetable plot, the BPS went to Mr Gill and perhaps most importantly, the deceased had a full range of tractors and diggers together with the necessary implements and he spent a lot of time hedging, ditching and generally looking after both the land and the stock – an activity which, the Commissioners found went far beyond that of simply managing land. They held that the deceased was indeed carrying out the trade of farming and that “he had always been a farmer and although the manner in which he farmed was modified with time and age, he did not cease to be a farmer”.