Equestrian tax proposals get mucky

Rural areas are about to be hit with a new tax that could cause considerable damage to small companies dealing in the horse muck business.

Defra has announced plans for legislation requiring that equestrian businesses, including livery yards, studs and riding schools, would have to obtain a permit costing up to £500 in order to compost their horse muck to be used as fertiliser.

Business pressure group the Forum of Private Business (FPB) said it was "appalled" that the horse industry should face such a "stealth tax", and that it would hit smaller businesses the hardest.

"Yet again it appears the government has failed to conduct a proper regulatory impact assessment and therefore small firms, for whom composting is a viable and much-used alternative, are going to be clobbered by this legislation," said Andrew Mowlah, head of research at the FPB.

"Manure has been spread for as long as land has been farmed - it is ludicrous now to suddenly slap a stealth tax on the industry."

He added that the legislation would bring a double whammy to the equestrian sector - as well as having to buy a permit, businesses would need to install leak-proof concrete flooring beneath the muck heaps, with a holding tank for the liquid that runs off in order to also operate as a waste business, costing them thousands of pounds.

Manager of the Northcote Heavy Horse Centre in Lincolnshire, Keith Sanders described the proposed tax as "an absolute farce" that would cost him thousands of pounds that did not need to be spent on composting.

"Whoever thought of this legislation does not know their dung," he commented. "Horse muck is not as wet as pig or cow dump because it is about 60% straw, so there is no need to go to the hugely expensive lengths of building new concrete floors."

Mr Sanders said that the measures would cripple many horse businesses that were already struggling with high levels of taxation.

"I'll be the first to take a lorry load of dung to Downing Street to make my point," he added.

By Jane Kettle



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