As December approaches many BPS applicants will start to consider the payment they hope to imminently receive.  This may also be a useful time however, to review what was submitted earlier this year and check that everything is still correct. Following a recent change in the rules governing errors and penalties, here we look at how the penalty system works.

Errors

Obvious Errors

If whilst checking a BPS application the RPA finds an error which is an obvious mistake from a simple check, they may be able to make the amendment without applying a penalty.  The RPA will only allow this type of amendment once for each mistake.  If the same mistake is made on multiple applications the RPA may not accept it as an “obvious error” the second time, and a penalty may be applied.

Notified Errors

For 2018 applications farmers are able to notify the RPA of errors relating to their application at any time, even after the final deadline dates have passed (being the 15th May submission deadline, the 31st May amendment to submitted claims without penalty deadline and the 11th June submission and amendment subject to penalty deadline). Applicants can notify the RPA of an error for the purpose of avoiding a penalty at any time providing they have not:

  • already been told of any non-compliances in their application, or
  • received advance warning of an inspection

It is therefore vital that any errors are reported to the RPA as soon as possible to avoid receiving a penalty.

Penalties

The RPA will apply penalties for the following:

  • submitting an application late;
  • changing an application after the 31st May deadline (this includes changes to supporting information or evidence submitted as part of the application);
  • the application doesn’t contain all the agricultural land on a farmer’s holding;
  • the area of eligible land the farmer claims payment on is significantly larger than the area the farmer actually has;
  • non-compliance with the greening rules;
  • a farmer provides false evidence in an attempt to qualify for the young farmer payment;
  • being found to have breached the cross compliance rules

Over-claiming penalty

If the over-claim is either more than 3% of the area determined or 2 hectares, the RPA will apply a penalty which will be 1.5 times the size of the over-claim (the ‘standard rate’). The standard penalty for over-claiming won’t be more than 100% of the amount the farmer claimed. If the size of the penalty is more than 100%, the excess will be written off (ignored). The RPA will reduce this penalty by 50% if both of the following apply:

  • it is the first time a farmer has received a penalty under this new rule (starting from claim year 2016)
  • the difference between the area claimed by the farmer and the area determined by RPA is not more than 10% of the area determined.

This means the RPA in these circumstances will apply a rate of 0.75 times the size of the over-claim (the ‘reduced rate’), and not the ‘standard rate’. In these cases, the RPA may carry out an inspection in the following year.

If, in the year after the reduced rate has been applied, a farmer over-claims again, the RPA will apply both of the following:

  • use the standard rate of 1.5 for the second penalty, regardless of the size of the over-claim; and
  • cancel the 50% reduction from the previous penalty.

This means the previous year’s penalty is increased to the standard rate. The RPA will apply the 1.5 standard rate penalties to any other over-claims made by the farmer in future years.

Greening penalties

Greening penalties are applied for not meeting the crop diversification and Ecological Focus Area (EFA) rules:

  • If the crop diversification two crop rule is breached the penalty will be 2 x [the payment due on the area the main crop exceeds].
  • If the crop diversification three crop rule is breached the penalty will be [the payment due on the area of the main crop which exceeds 75% of the RPA estimate of arable land on your holding] plus 5 x [the payment due on the area the combined two main crop exceeds 95% of your arable area].
  • Ecological Focus Area (EFA) rule: 10 x the payment due on the equivalent amount (in hectares) of missing EFA.

Greening Administrative Penalty

The Greening Administrative Penalties calculation is based on the size of the reductions applied to the Greening payment for non-compliance with the Crop Diversification (CD), EFA and/or Environmentally Sensitive Permanent Grassland (ESPG) Greening requirements.

Greening Administrative Penalties will apply for non-compliance with the greening rules as follows:

  • If area of non-compliance is up to 3%, or 2ha (calculated on difference between the total of CD, ESPG or EFA area reductions for non-compliance with the greening rules as a proportion of the reduced determined area that the Greening payment is based on) – no penalty;
  • If area of non-compliance is more than 3% or 2 ha and up to 20% then the area of greening payment is reduced by twice the total non-compliance reduction (subject to penalty limitations explained below).
  • If area of non-compliance is more than 20% and up to 50% then the area of greening payment is reduced to zero (subject to penalty limitations explained below).
  • If area of non-compliance is more than 50% the area of greening payment is reduced to zero and a further penalty based on the [originally claimed greening payment] x area of penalty reduction (subject to penalty limitations explained below).

For the 2018 scheme year onwards, the size of the Greening Administrative Penalty is still limited but it is higher than 2017. It is divided by 4 and will not exceed 25% of the total greening payment due for that scheme year.

Not Declaring All Agricultural Land Penalty

When submitting a BPS application, applicants must declare all the land they have at their disposal on the application, even if they do not wish to claim the payment on all parcels.  The penalty for being in breach of this requirement is determined by the difference between the area declared and the area at the applicant’s disposal.

Difference between land declared and what is actually held (as a % of land declared) Size of penalty
up to 3% of the area determined No penalty
more than 3% and up to 20% 1%
more than 20% and up to 50% 2%
more than 50% 3%

 Other penalties

It is also worth remembering that breaches of Cross Compliance can also reduce the payment you receive from your BPS application.  Artificiality is also another issue which can affect the BPS claim that is often overlooked, and it is important that what is happening on the ground is also what is happening on paper and vice versa.  It is also vital that all agreements (i.e. leases, grazing licences, shared farming agreements etc.) and documents (i.e. NVZ, livestock movement books, TB testing etc.) are kept up to date in case of an inspection as these can be vital to avoid penalties or cross compliance failures.

And looking to your 2019 claim, it would also be worth checking your maps online now to see if changes you have requested are pending or have been actioned (including hedgerow changes), and to check whether any land identified on the RPA online has the wrong land use cover e.g. arable land being identified as grassland. It may be worth checking your 2019 cropping schedule to ensure you meet the required greening rules (still required, as of today’s date), and making a note of any changes that you may have made to your holding (i.e. the removal or addition of scrub, the removal or addition of buildings, tracks, ponds, hedgerows, bog, boulders or bracken, gallops, hardstanding heaps or bale stacks, land that has been converted to woodland). Mistakes often happen on applications because clients leave information gathering to the last minute, so they are rushed and applications are submitted by agents unchecked by the farmer.

For more information on BPS see here.


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