With the Government’s commitment to Net Zero by 2050, along with the ongoing focus on climate change, many businesses have sought to develop a carbon strategy to formally manage their carbon emissions. For some businesses, this strategy will involve purchasing carbon credits to offset against their emissions.
Farmers and landowners have sought to capitalise on this development by exploring different ways of using their land to generate carbon credits that they can sell to other businesses to offset their carbon emissions or, indeed, to use them to reduce their own emissions.
There are various schemes designed to facilitate this change of land use. Two of these are the Woodland Carbon Code and the Peatland Code. Both schemes operate in a similar way. First, the project must be registered with the appropriate scheme before planting or restoration work begins. Registration involves calculating the total carbon sequestration/retention expected which is then validated by the scheme. Once validated, Pending Issuance Units (PIUs) are issued for the carbon capture expected over the entire life of the project. Subject to the woodlands/restored peat performing as expected the PIUs will hopefully be verified and converted into Woodland Carbon Units (WCUs) (or Peatland Carbon Units (PCUs)) which can be used to offset carbon emissions. Both PIUs and WCUs (or PCUs) can be sold to third parties, but only WCUs or PCUs can be used for offsetting.
There has been some doubt over how HMRC would treat land used in this way for the purpose of claiming Business Property Relief (BPR) for Inheritance Tax. For some, the uncertainty was a barrier to committing to these projects. Fortunately, HMRC clarified their position in this area earlier this month. They have updated their Inheritance Tax Manual to confirm that land entered into the UK Land Carbon Registry and validated under one of these schemes will be treated as a “trading” activity and, therefore, can in principle qualify for BPR. This said, further HMRC consultations are ongoing.