red diesel

Contents

Introduction
Current rules concerning red diesel use
Explanation of rules from April 2022
Landscape activities and use of red diesel post-April 2022
- Commercial construction
- Commercial maintenance 
- Commercial tree works
- Professional garden construction
- Professional garden maintenance 
- Professional tree works in a garden
- Winter maintenance 
- Mixed use of machines
How to prepare for the changes 
Frequently Asked Questions
Further reading

Introduction 

During the 2020 Budget the Government announced it was considering removing the entitlement to use red diesel from most sectors - including landscape maintenance and mowing machines - from April 2022 onwards, in an attempt to incentivise the development and adoption of greener alternatives.  A consultation ran from July 2020 to October 2020.

BALI responded to this consultation on behalf of the landscape industry, highlighting the potential financial impact this decision would have on the industry whilst offering little benefit to the environment.  BALI urged the government to reconsider their proposal.

In March 2021 HM Revenue and Customs announced the entitlement to use red diesel will be removed from most sectors from 1st April 2022, which included most landscaping activities. 

Current rules concerning red diesel use

Government guidance permits only selected vehicle types to red diesel as fuel. These are known as ‘excepted vehicles’ and there are several categories of these as defined by HM Revenue and Customs. 

The categories are as follows:

  • Unlicensed vehicles not used on public roads
  • Tractors must be designed and constructed primarily for use otherwise than on roads. Tractors must not be used on public roads for activities other than for:
    - purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture or forestry*
    - cutting verges bordering public roads
    - cutting hedges or trees bordering public roads or bordering verges which border public roads
    - gritting roads, including travel to and from where gritting takes place, and for the collection of equipment and material for gritting
  • Light agricultural vehicles 
  • Agricultural material handlers 
  • Mowing machines may use red diesel as long as it is a complete vehicle, whether pedestrian-operated or ‘ride-on’, with grass cutting machinery built in.
  • Snow clearing machines 
  • Gritters
  • Digging machines 

HM Revenue and Customs provides guidance for activities which fall within the definition of agriculture, horticulture or forestry: 

  • breeding or rearing of any creature kept for the production of food, wool, skin or fur, or for the purpose of its use in the farming of land
  • growing or harvesting of crops including cereals, combinable crops, roots, tubers, vegetables, pulses, fruit, nuts, grasses,
  • oilseeds and fungi for food, beverages, fodder, fuel or industrial purposes
  • growing or harvesting of flowering or ornamental plants
  • growing or harvesting of timber or other forestry products
  • upkeep of agricultural land such as set aside under environmental management schemes

HM Revenue and Customs also provides guidance for activities not accepted as falling within the definition of agriculture, horticulture or forestry include:

  • the breeding, rearing or keeping of any creature for purposes relating to sport or recreation
    dealing in agricultural, horticultural or forestry products
  • landscaping
  • the maintenance of recreational facilities, including beaches
  • flood protection
  • peat or loam extraction
  • the exploitation of wild animal or fish stocks
  • construction of buildings or other structures used for purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture or
  • forestry
  • transportation of agricultural, horticultural or forestry produce, livestock, implements, inputs or waste, other than where this is incidental to an agricultural, horticultural or forestry operation being performed on the land – accepted transportation uses are as set out under this agreement

Full details of the terms and conditions associated with the use of red diesel are provided here

Explanation of rules from April 2022

Agriculture, horticulture, fish farming and forestry sectors retain the entitlement to use red diesel from April 2022.  However, HM Revenue and Customs have explicitly excluded landscaping and activities associated with landscaping from these sectors. 

- HM Revenue and Customs definition of agriculture:

Agriculture is the growing and harvesting of crops, for food, beverages, fodder, fuel, or industrial purposes; or the rearing of animals for the production of food, wool, leather, fur or other substances. The keeping or breeding of animals for leisure (breeding dogs or racehorses for example) is not agriculture. The growing of plants for other reasons is not agriculture, but will sometimes be horticulture. Using a tractor for ‘purposes relating to agriculture’ includes using it to:

  • transport agricultural ‘inputs; such as feed, fertilizer, fence posts, and so on for use on your farm (by ‘your farm’, we mean the farm that you own or manage, but also the farm where you work)
  • take your produce and livestock to market or for processing (including slaughter)
  • move produce and livestock between your farm and an associated storage facility
  • transport material to be used for maintaining or improving your farmland (including drainage pipes)
  • transport materials to repair and maintain your farm buildings (other than the farmhouse itself)
    deliver agricultural waste from your farm to a waste tip
  • transport vehicles and equipment for use on your farm

- HM Revenue and Customs definition of horticulture:

Horticulture is the cultivation and management of gardens (including vegetable plots, allotments and market gardens, but also flowerbeds, trees, shrubberies and ornamental lawns in public parks). By cultivation and management, we mean growing and tending flowers, lawns, shrubs and trees, and harvesting flowers, fruits and vegetables for food (or animal fodder) and for ornament, as well as treating and enriching the soil and controlling weeds and pests. But, we do not regard as horticulture the landscaping and maintenance of grassy recreational areas, such as playing fields and golf courses, or the grassed areas of parks that are made available for walks, picnics and general recreation.

Using a tractor for purposes relating to horticulture includes using it to:

  • travel to and from a place where it will be used for horticulture
  • transport trailed or mounted implements to be used for horticulture
  • take your horticultural produce to a market or to a place where it is to be sold or processed
    move your horticultural produce between the place where it is grown and an associated storage facility
  • deliver horticultural waste from the place of production to a waste tip
  • transport horticultural inputs such as seed, fertiliser, pesticides and so on for use in your own garden or in land set aside for horticulture

Activities accepted by HM Revenue and Customs as falling within the definition of agriculture, horticulture, fish farming or forestry:

  • breeding or rearing of any creature kept for the production of food, wool, skin or fur, or for the purpose of its use in the farming of land
  • growing or harvesting of crops including cereals, combinable crops, roots, tubers, vegetables, pulses, fruit, nuts, grasses, oilseeds and fungi for food, beverages, fodder, fuel or industrial purposes
  • growing or harvesting of flowering or ornamental plants
  • growing or harvesting of timber or other forestry products
  • upkeep of agricultural land such as set aside under environmental management schemes

Activities not accepted as falling within the definition of agriculture, horticulture, fish farming or forestry:

  • the breeding, rearing or keeping of any creature for purposes relating to sport or recreation
    dealing in agricultural, horticultural or forestry products
  • landscaping
  • the maintenance of recreational facilities, including beaches
  • flood protection
  • peat or loam extraction
  • the exploitation of wild animal or fish stocks
  • construction of buildings or other structures used for purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture or forestry
  • transportation of agricultural, horticultural or forestry produce, livestock, implements, inputs or waste, other than where this is incidental to an agricultural, horticultural or forestry operation being performed on the land – accepted transportation uses are as set out under this agreement

Community amateur sports clubs (CASCs) and golf courses

Aside from accepted uses within the agriculture, horticulture, fish farming and forestry sectors, red diesel may only be used in agricultural vehicles and unlicensed vehicles to maintain:

  • land maintained by a Community Amateur Sports Club (click here for more information )
  • a golf course
  • a golf driving range
  • Any machines or appliances (other than vehicles) being used in the venues above. This includes heating and lighting buildings, such as clubhouses and changing rooms.

When working on these grounds, business owners can use rebated fuel in vehicles including:

  • diggers
  • cranes
  • mowing machines
  • In special vehicles when the vehicle is going to or from a golf course or land maintained by a CASC, where the vehicle is used.

Where the land or golf course is either side of a public road, business owners can use rebated fuel in an agricultural or special vehicle while travelling between the 2 parts by the shortest possible route, providing the vehicle is licensed to use the road.

Landscape activities and use of red diesel post-April 2022

- Commercial landscape construction
Commercial landscape construction is not an activity accepted as falling within the definition of agriculture, horticulture or forestry used by HM Revenue and Customs, and therefore machinery used for this purpose is not permitted to use red diesel. 

- Commercial landscape maintenance 
Commercial maintenance of landscapes is largely excluded from HM Revenue and Customs' definition of agriculture, horticulture and forestry, and therefore the majority of machinery used for commercial landscape maintenance is no longer permitted to use red diesel.

The only exception to this rule concerns the use of an agricultural vehicle to cut verges and hedges that border a road.  HM Revenue and Customs define an agricultural vehicle as a:

  • tractor
  • single seat, light vehicle (less than 1,000 kilograms), designed and constructed mainly for off-road use
  • vehicle licensed only for use between different parts of land for purposes relating to:
    - agriculture
    - horticulture
    - forestry
  • vehicle constructed and adapted, with built-in or permanently attached handling and processing equipment, to be used for purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture, fish farming or forestry

Specific landscape maintenance activities prohibited from using red diesel include:

  - Grass cutting in school/college/university playing fields (other than community amateur sports clubs)
  - Grass cutting in picnic areas, country parks or recreation areas

- Commercial tree works
The definition of forestry issued by HM Revenue and Customs refers to the upkeep and management of forests including the growing and harvesting of timber and other forestry products.  Management of trees not in a woodland (i.e. street trees or amenity trees) is therefore not forestry and machinery used for this purpose cannot use red diesel.  

- Professional garden construction
Domestic landscape construction is not an activity accepted as falling within the definition of agriculture, horticulture or forestry used by HM Revenue and Customs, and therefore machinery used for this purpose cannot use red diesel.  

- Professional garden maintenance
Based on the definition of horticulture issued by HM Revenue and Customs, professional cultivation and management of domestic gardens is regarded as horticulture and therefore machinery used for this purpose is permitted to use red diesel.  Permitted tasks include maintenance of vegetable plots, flower beds, trees, shrubberies and lawns, as well as harvesting flowers, fruits and vegetables, and treating and enriching the soil and controlling weeds and pests.    

- Professional tree works in a garden
Based on the definition of horticulture issued by HM Revenue and Customs, management of trees and shrubberies within domestic gardens is horticulture, and therefore machinery used for this purpose (for example wood chippers) are permitted to use red diesel. 

- Winter maintenance 
Only agricultural vehicles may use red diesel for the purposes of:

  • clearing snow
  • gritting
  • assisting any clear-up following flooding

HM Revenue and Customs define an agricultural vehicle as a:

  • tractor
  • single seat, light vehicle (less than 1,000 kilograms), designed and constructed mainly for off-road use
  • vehicle licensed only for use between different parts of land for purposes relating to:
    - agriculture
    - horticulture
    - forestry
  • vehicle constructed and adapted, with built-in or permanently attached handling and processing equipment, to be used for purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture, fish farming or forestry

A vehicle, machine or appliance used for both allowed and non-allowed purposes

HM Revenue and Customs advise operators who use a vehicle, machine or appliance for both allowed and non-allowed purposes after the rules change will need to make a decision on how they manage the fuel in these vehicles, machines and appliances after 1 April 2022.

Operators must either flush out the tank to remove all traces of rebated fuel when switching uses or use fully duty-paid diesel/biofuels for everything. This approach is required to ensure compliance and avoid the misuse of rebated fuel.

How to prepare for the changes

In advance of 1st April 2022 members are encouraged to run down the fuel they have to as close to nil as reasonably practicable before 1 April 2022.  You are permitted to use up rebated fuel in a vehicle or machine after 1st April 2022, if the fuel was legally put into the vehicle or machine before 1 April 2022.

  • Red diesel in storage tanks 

Members who cannot use red diesel from 1st April 2022 should plan to use up stocks of fuel held in storage tanks by this date.  If you order supplies of red diesel between now and April 2022, try to order the amount you expect to use by April 2022. 

You will not be expected to flush out rebated fuel from your storage tanks.

If you have any surplus rebated fuel in your storage tanks after 31 March 2022, you will need to:

- sell or give it to someone who is allowed to use it
- sell or give it to any Registered Dealer in Controlled Oil (RDCO)
- dispose of it via an approved waste oil recycling or disposal company
Note: You will need to keep records to show how and when the fuel was disposed of or sold.

If you will not be able to use or dispose of red diesel before April 2022, email oils.policymail@hmrc.gov.uk as soon as possible. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I fit two tanks to my machine; one for white diesel and one for red diesel, which I switch according to the vehicle use?
A:  No, HM Revenue and Customs do not permit any ‘dual tank’ fuel system that allows a vehicle to swap between white and red diesel.

Q: Can I use red diesel to run a non-road registered compact tractor to carry out drainage works on a sports pitch?
A: Only if the football pitch is part of a site registered as a community amateur sports club (CASC).  Machinery used to maintain sports fields and recreational areas which are not registered as community amateur sports clubs must use white diesel as HM Revenue and Customs do not regard the maintenance of sports fields and recreational areas as falling within the definition of horticulture. 

Q: Can I use red diesel in machinery such as an excavator for domestic construction or landscaping work?
A: No.  This work will fall within the definition of landscaping which is not a permitted reason for using red diesel.

Q: Can I use red diesel in my ride-on mower or tractor as part of my domestic garden maintenance business?
A: Yes.  Based on the definition of horticulture issued by HM Revenue and Customs, management of lawns in gardens is horticulture and therefore permitted to use red diesel.  

Further reading

HMRC webpage: How to prepare for the changes to rebated fuel if you're a fuel user
HMRC webpage: Check when rebated fuel can be used