Farm succession: Beware dying as a ‘retired farmer’

Farmers whose occupations are not recorded correctly on death could leave their families crippled with taxes, a Northern Ireland agricultural accounting expert has warned.

Gabrielle McArdle from accountancy firm CavanaghKelly warned of cases where farmers were described as “retired” on their death certificates, causing the family farm to come under scrutiny by HM Revenue and Customs.

Speaking at the Farm Family Key Skills programme Business Planning Seminar at Loughry College, she said: “For agricultural property relief there is a need for us to prove that there is an active trade being carried on.

There was one case where the revenue actually asked for the death certificate – and you’re lucky that it said ‘farmer’ on it.

Farm succession

“But we have seen cases where ‘retired farmer’ has been put on to a death certificate and that opens the case for the revenue to come along and say ‘Well actually, agricultural property relief is no longer an option’.

“Just make sure that if a parent is holding on to a farm until the date of death that it says ‘farmer’ on the death certificate and make sure that everything is active.

“Even if they are only down on the farm for 10 hours a week, it’s important to keep a record of that because [the revenue] definitely is challenging agricultural property relief and business property relief.”

McArdle said it was important that farmers talked about their farm succession plans and sought expert advice on the subject.

She also warned that farming debt continued to rise and that it was important that business owners carefully managed their cash flow.


Further farm succession planning meetings will be held on:

  • Thursday, 15: Farm Family Key Skills (FFKS) Business Planning Seminar, Greenmount College. Doors open at 1:00pm with seminars beginning at 1:30pm.
  • Thursday, 15: Land mobility meeting, Greenmount College, 8:00pm.
  • Wednesday, 21: Farm Family Key Skills (FFKS) Business Planning Seminar, Strangford Arms Hotel, Newtownards. Doors open at 7:30pm with seminars beginning at 8:00pm.