Red diesel use rules clarified as penalty rises
By Andy Collings
THIS years Budget has caused changes to be made to the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979 designed to prevent the unfair use of rebated diesel (red) by vehicles travelling on the public road.
There are two main changes. The first increases the penalty for using red diesel as road fuel, the second concerns which vehicle type can legally use red diesel.
Anyone caught using red diesel as road fuel will now face a maximum fine of £500 – £250 for the offence of taking in red diesel and a separate fine of £250 for using the fuel. Current legislation provides for alternative penalties – either taking in or using – but this will be amended so that cumulative penalties can be imposed where the offender has illegally placed red diesel in a vehicle and then used it to propel the vehicle,
More important for the agricultural industry are the changes to the types of vehicles which can use red diesel legally. HM Customs and Excise calls it a clarification.
A recent High Court ruling stated that "off-road" tractors can use red diesel when travelling on public roads for any purpose.
But the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979 specifies the types of vehicles which can legally use rebated fuel while travelling on public roads, These vehicles are known as excepted vehicles and, currently, their are two types – agricultural tractors and off-road tractors.
Legislation will now be amended to allow only agricultural tractors – those being used for agricultural, horticulture or forestry – to use red diesel. The off-road category is now deleted.
This would imply that use of red diesel will be limited to use by tractors travelling on public roads only when they are carrying out work related to agriculture, horticulture and forestry. Those using tractors for businesses such as general haulage or waste management will not be able to use red diesel.
HM Customs and Excise concedes there are many grey areas which individual operators may wish to question. In these circumstances, it suggests farmers contact the local Excise Advice Centre. The number is in the telephone directory under Customs and Excise. *