BPS applicants are warned not to rely on what they see on screen, especially concerning entitlement transfers and use-by years.
“The online system can be a very useful way of making applications for claims and transfers but it is impossible to say one can rely on the information one is seeing on screen,” said Hugh Townsend of Devon-based Townsend Chartered Surveyors.
The only safe way to establish use-by years was to contact the RPA for written confirmation of the correct year before assuming that entitlements were available to transfer, or relying on them to submit a claim, he said.
Taking screenshots of information available when making decisions on BPS applications, backed up with any supporting paperwork from earlier years or other correspondence, could also help in cases where problems needed to be sorted after the 16 May application deadline, he said.
“One of the most worrying things is that we are told we cannot rely on the 2017 usage year confirming the entitlements that can be claimed on and transferred.
“When transferring entitlements we have found transfers with 2017 usage years have been rejected. On subsequent investigation we have found that those entitlements weren’t available, having been confiscated to the National Reserve. This subsequently is going to cause real problems, if this is widespread, in the last days of trading as there will be no time to find out what actually is available to sell.”
Other issues included rejected applications remaining as “live” on the online system. “This then needs to be manually removed and raises queries as to what happens following the rejection of an application,” said Mr Townsend.
Entitlements were also appearing as registered with clients when they should not be, he said. Some had no identification as to whether they are non-SDA, SDA or Moorland.
The BPS online system had also not taken account of SPS-activated leases that were still running, with the end dates of leases causing particular problems.
Meanwhile the RPA is updating its guidance, taking the questions farmers are asking and providing answers in a hints and tips document published online.
Agents completing 2016 forms could also call the helpline on 03000 200 301 and, by using a new option, get through to a dedicated team, said a spokesperson. Anyone with a paper form can also call the helpline to get their online claim set up. Farmers can also visit one of 14 online support centres.