Participants at tractor runs and ploughing matches will not be permitted to use red diesel from 1 April 2022, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has confirmed.

Speaking at an online event on Tuesday, Michael Lyttle from HMRC said the purpose of tractor runs and ploughing matches would be deemed as pleasure, rather than agricultural work.

“They wouldn’t be acceptable uses of red diesel,” he maintained.

The upcoming rule changes stem from the UK government’s budget in 2020 when it was announced that the entitlement to use red diesel was being removed for most sectors, except agriculture.

In practice, a key issue is likely to be tractors that are used for both construction work and farming.

“Ideally, you may want to assign a vehicle for allowed uses, and another for non-allowed uses. That would be more simple than having to flush out your fuel tank every time you change usage,” Lyttle suggested.

Likewise, red diesel can be used in a tractor when hauling livestock to a mart or abattoir

During the webinar, which was organised by Ulster Farmers’ Union, officials from HMRC confirmed that red diesel could still be used in almost all instances that relate to farming.

The examples were given of using a tractor to collect fertiliser from a merchant, or to transport stones from a quarry for field drainage. As both cases are related to agriculture, then red diesel is permitted.

Likewise, red diesel can be used in a tractor when hauling livestock to a mart or abattoir. It is permitted when cutting road verges and hedges, as well as when clearing snow on public roads.

Red diesel can also be used in a digger, and the tractor that transports the digger, but only if the purpose of the work is agricultural.

However, Lyttle said that red diesel could not be used by external contractors who are brought on to a farm to construct new agricultural buildings: “If you have somebody coming in to build something, we would expect them to still use white diesel.”

Lyttle maintained that HMRC would have a “pragmatic approach” to enforcing the new rules and he suggested that checks would be mainly targeted at larger users of fuel.

“It’s not going to be checking every tractor that we see coming up and down the back roads of NI,” he said.