Find out which fuel you can legally use in different types of vehicle.
1.1 What this notice is about
It is about the oil you can legally use as road fuel and circumstances in which rebated fuel, for example red diesel, may be used in vehicles.
This notice cancels and replaces Notice 75 of March 2019.
1.2 Who should read this notice
Anyone who supplies or uses fuel for vehicles, but especially anyone who:
- supplies or uses rebated fuel (that has not had the full amount of excise duty charged)
- has a vehicle that may be allowed to use rebated fuel (an excepted vehicle)
1.3 The law covering this notice
- The Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979 (HODA)
- The Customs and Excise Management Act 1979
- The Hydrocarbon Oil Regulations 1973
- The Hydrocarbon Oil (Repayment of Rebates) Regulations 1996
- The Hydrocarbon Oil (Marking) Regulations 2002
- The Excepted Vehicles (Amendment of schedule 1 to the Hydrocarbon Duties Act 1979) Order 2013
- The Hydrocarbon Oil (Marking) (Amendment) Regulations 2007
- The Hydrocarbon Oil (Marking and Designated Markers)(Amendment) Regulations 2015
- Council Directive 92/12/EEC of 25 February 1992
- Council Directive 95/60/EEC of 27 November 1995
- Council Directive 98/70 of 13 October 1998
- Council Directive 2003/96/EC of 27 October 2003
- Commission Decision 2001/574/EC of 13 July 2001 and Amendments to Commission Decision 2001/574/EC of 8 April 2002 and 17 December 2003
Nothing in this notice modifies the law.
2. Fuel which may be used in vehicles
2.1 Fuel that may be used in a road vehicle
Only fuel taxed at the appropriate rate of fuel duty may be used in road vehicles.
2.2 What we mean by ‘road vehicle’
A vehicle made or adapted to be used on roads. Examples include buses, cars, trucks, vans, motor homes and motorcycles. Vehicles meeting the specifications and use criteria for excepted vehicles are not road vehicles for the purpose of this notice - see section 8 for excepted vehicles.
2.3 Fuel that can be legally used in petrol or diesel engine road vehicles
Apart from the circumstances described in this paragraph you must always use duty paid fuel. This would normally be petrol or diesel sold as road fuel from a fuel retailers.
Certain biodiesel and fuel substitute producers and users, who meet the definition of ‘exempt producers’, can use limited amounts of fuel upon which duty has not been paid. For more details see section 4 of Notice 179E Biofuels and other fuel substitutes.
Biofuels and fuel substitutes are alternative fuels, they include:
- refuse-derived fuel
- non-fossil methane
- vegetable oil
- other biomass sources
2.4 Rebated oils
Some oils and fuels are taxed at a lower (rebated) rate because they are not intended to be used in road vehicles. They include:
- gas oil, usually marked and dyed, also called red diesel
- kerosene, including aviation turbine fuel (avtur)
It’s illegal to use rebated oils as fuel in a road vehicle unless you get a licence from us to pay the difference between the full rate of fuel duty and the rebated rate actually paid on the rebated fuel used. Section 7 explains the circumstances in which we’ll allow this and how you can apply.
2.5 How rebated oils differ from fully duty paid fuel
The excise duty on diesel and petrol for use in road vehicles is much higher than the rates on both gas oil (taxed at a partially rebated rate of duty) and kerosene (taxed at a fully rebated rate of duty). To distinguish them from road fuel, gas oil and kerosene contain chemical markers. Gas oil is dyed red and kerosene is dyed a pale yellow colour. Current fuel duty rates are available.
2.6 Why rebated oils are dyed and marked
This helps our officers to identify if they are being used or supplied for use as fuel for road vehicles.
2.7 Vehicles that can use rebated oils as fuel
Vehicles that are specifically excluded from the legal definition of ‘road vehicle’ may use red diesel as fuel. These are known as ‘excepted vehicles’ and are described in section 8. Unless a vehicle meets the specification and is used as described in that section, it is a ‘road vehicle’ and must use fully duty paid fuel at all times.
2.8 Preserved vintage vehicles
Some vintage tractors and cars, need to run on a mixture of kerosene with petrol or diesel to function properly. Kerosene is a heating fuel and the excise duty on it is fully rebated (reducing the excise duty to nil). For this reason, it is illegal to use kerosene in any vehicle or to mix it with road fuels unless you have a licence from us allowing you to do so.
To apply for a licence you must write to:
HMRC Fuel Duty Policy Team
3 Stanley Street
You need to include details of:
- the vehicle you want to use kerosene in, including the year of production
- what the vehicle is normally used for, the frequency of use and the anticipated annual mileage
- why kerosene needs to be used
- how much kerosene you expect to use
If we decide to allow you to add kerosene to your vehicle’s fuel we’ll send you a licence stating the circumstances in which you may use kerosene. Vintage vehicle owners’ clubs may also apply for a licence on behalf of their membership.
3. Testing of fuels
3.1 How we check that fully duty paid fuel is being used
The law gives our officers the power to sample and test the fuel of vehicles.
3.2 Making your vehicle’s fuel available for testing
You must make your vehicle’s fuel available for testing if one of our officers asks you to. If you refuse to allow our officers to take a sample, we may seize the fuel and the vehicle. We may also impose a penalty for your failure to comply with this legal requirement.
If you obstruct, hinder or assault one of our officers, we may prosecute you.
3.3 Fuel tested in your absence
Your fuel can be tested in your absence. You will be told about the test and the result in writing.
3.4 How to avoid needless delay if your vehicle is chosen for testing
It’s your responsibility to provide a fuel sample or allow one to be taken. If you employ a driver, make sure they know that our officers may ask for a sample of the vehicle’s fuel. You must make sure that the fuel in any tank on the vehicle is easily accessible, including the removal of any fitted anti-theft devices.
Failure to remove an anti-theft device may result in the detention and removal of the vehicle until a sample can be obtained.
3.5 Testing for marked fuel from outside the UK
HMRC will take action against those responsible for the presence of marked oils containing any UK or EU chemical marker. These include:
- Coumarin - a UK marker
- Quinizarin - a UK marker
- the ‘Euromarker’ - Solvent Yellow 124, a marker used in all EU member states
4. Powers of HMRC officers
Our officers are allowed by law to:
- examine any vehicle and any oil in or on it and to inspect, test or sample any oil in the fuel supply
- require vehicle owners or anyone in charge of a vehicle to open or cause to be opened the fuel tank or other source of the fuel supply so that the fuel can be located and inspected, tested or sampled - if there is anything in the supply which might hinder this, it must be removed
- require anyone in charge of a vehicle to produce any books or documents relating to the vehicle or to oil carried on it and which are carried by that person or on the vehicle
- enter any premises (except private dwelling houses) and inspect, test and sample any oil on the premises, whether in a vehicle or elsewhere - in entering the premises, an officer may bring with them any vehicle used for carrying out official duties
- require the occupier of the premises or the person in charge of them to facilitate the inspection, testing or sampling of oil on their premises or oil in the fuel supply of vehicles on the premises, irrespective of whether the oil or the vehicle belongs to that person or someone else - this includes attending normally unmanned premises when our officers require access to fuel
- require anyone concerned with the sale, purchase or disposal of any oil to produce on demand any relevant books or documents
- require you to provide satisfactory evidence that any fuel in your possession (including in your running tank) is fully UK duty paid
5. General information about rebated fuels
5.1 Fuel you can use for separate machinery on your vehicle
You do not have to use fully duty paid fuel for your separate machinery as long as it has its own fuel supply and auxiliary engine separate from the vehicle’s fuel supply and engine. You must use fully duty paid fuel if the vehicle’s fuel supply or engine is also used to operate the separate machinery. If your vehicle is allowed to run on red diesel fuel because it is an excepted vehicle, any separate machinery can also use red diesel.
5.2 Fuel stored in auxiliary (belly) tanks on a vehicle or trailer
The standard running tanks, whether connected or disconnected, must contain only fully duty paid fuel. Red diesel must not be put into the standard running tanks or auxiliary tanks fitted to vehicles or trailers, except where these tanks are solely and permanently connected to the auxiliary machinery (for example, refrigeration motors). Dual fuel systems are not permitted, even where they can connect to a power take off to switch the tanks.
5.3 Mixing rebated fuels with each other or with fully duty paid fuel
You cannot mix these fuels in any tank or fuel system. We may seize the fuel and vehicle if you do. If you own a vintage tractor (in production before 1960) or vintage car (manufactured before 1956) that needs to run on a mix of fuels see section 2.8.
6. HMRC response to illegal fuel use
6.1 What will happen if you misuse rebated fuel
Where we find your road vehicle is fuelled with rebated oil, we’ll seize it. We may also issue an assessment of fuel duty payable and a wrongdoing penalty based on the extent of your illegal fuel use. In the more serious cases involving assault, repeated offending or dishonesty, criminal action may be taken. The offender can be fined an unlimited amount or imprisoned for up to 7 years, or both.
6.2 Offences and penalties
The following table lists the action we may take in respect of different offences involving fuel.
|Offences||Sanctions and assessments|
take in oil (other than fully duty paid fuel) for use as fuel in a road vehicle
misuse oil (other than fully duty paid fuel) for use as fuel in a road vehicle
supply oil (other than fully duty paid fuel) for use as fuel in a road vehicle
|£250 civil penalty under section 9 of the Finance Act 1994|
|misuse or supply rebated kerosene for use to propel an excepted vehicle or as fuel in an engine (other than to provide heating)
mix any rebated or duty free oil with any oil on which no rebate has been allowed, or,
fail to provide records, or to allow HMRC officers to obtain, a sample of fuel
|£250 civil penalty under section 9 of the Finance Act 1994
if your conduct involves dishonesty, a penalty of up to 100% of the duty evaded may be imposed
your vehicle and/or oil may be seized, or detained and we may issue a £250 civil penalty under section 9 of the Finance Act 1994, or an excise wrongdoing penalty under schedule 41 of Finance Act 2008
we may also raise an assessment, requiring you to pay additional fuel duty for all of your vehicles, for a period going back up to 4 years
if your conduct involves dishonesty, a penalty of up to 100% of the duty evaded may be imposed
|remove any designated chemical marker or dye from any fuel, or
add any substance to the fuel to prevent the chemical marker from being identified
|an excise wrongdoing penalty under schedule 41 of Finance Act 2008
the oil and any associated containers and equipment may be seized and forfeited
|knowingly or recklessly make a false declaration in a document or statement||an inaccuracy penalty under schedule 24 of Finance Act 2007. Prosecution and/or seizure of goods under section 167 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979. If you think you have made a mistake in your declaration you should tell us immediately. We may then reduce or waive the penalty.|
6.3 If you disagree with HMRC’s decision
The Finance Act 1994 contains the appeal and review procedures for challenging the following excise decisions. It provides procedures for challenging:
- the terms offered for restoration of a vehicle (or engine) we have seized
- our decision not to restore any vehicle (or engine) we have seized
- a civil penalty or civil evasion penalty
- tax assessment of excise duty
The procedures are different depending on what decision or decisions you’re challenging. We’ll give you a decision letter, and tell you what your rights are, if you want to challenge our decision.
Information about challenging HMRC restoration decisions and linked decisions can be found in Notice 12A: what you can do if things are seized. Further information is available on HMRC’s review and appeal procedures.
6.4 Appeals against the seizure of your vehicle, engine or equipment
The arrangements for challenging the seizure of things liable for forfeiture (rather than HMRC’s decision about whether or not to return them to you) are different from the arrangements outlined at paragraph 6.3.
If you disagree with our decision to seize your vehicle, engine or any other equipment, you can appeal in writing to the seizing officer within one month of the seizure date. We must receive your appeal by this deadline. We must then bring civil (‘condemnation’) proceedings in the courts to determine the matter, and you can challenge the seizure and forfeiture there.
More information on how to challenge the seizure of goods by HMRC can be found in Notice 12A: what you can do if things are seized.
6.5 How to report misuse of rebated fuel
You can report the misuse of rebated oil in either of the following ways:
- contacting the HMRC Fraud Hotline on Telephone: 0800 788 887
- completing the online HMRC Fraud Hotline Information Report Form
7. Rebated fuel used due to exceptional circumstances
7.1 Use of rebated fuel in exceptional circumstances
We may authorise you to use rebated fuel (after repaying the rebate) if due to exceptional circumstances you must use rebated fuel, on a public road, in:
- a road vehicle
- an ‘excepted’ vehicle being used outside its qualifying purpose
- a vehicle which is ‘excepted’ because it is not used on public roads
7.2 Types of vehicle
7.2.1 Road vehicles
The primary use of rebated fuel licences is to allow essential ‘road vehicles’ to use rebated fuel on public roads, due to supply issues. This might occur in rural or isolated areas if:
- the supply of duty paid fuel is interrupted
- you are an essential user like a GP or midwife
7.2.2 Excepted vehicles that never use public roads
Some vehicles are ‘excepted’ because they are not licensed to use public roads. This includes vehicles with a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) in place. If used on public roads, they are no longer ‘excepted’ and must use white diesel at all times, including off-road use. A ‘rebated fuel licence’ cannot be used to disregard road use so that an unlicensed vehicle can keep its ‘excepted’ status.
7.2.3 Excepted vehicles used for a non-qualifying purpose
Some vehicles are ‘excepted’ as long as their road use is restricted to specific qualifying purposes (see section 8). If the vehicle is used on public roads for other purposes it no longer meets the definition of an excepted vehicle and must use white diesel at all times, both on-road and off-road. The ‘rebated fuel licence’ cannot be used to disregard the other use, so that the vehicle can keep its ‘excepted’ status.
7.3 Exceptional circumstances
We will only grant a licence if we’re satisfied there is no viable alternative to using rebated fuel, and that it would be unreasonable in the circumstances not to allow you to use it. It is unlikely that we’ll approve your application if:
- there is no obvious barrier to you using the correct fuel, for example, white diesel in road vehicles
- your proposed use of the fuel is for journeys not permitted under road traffic laws
- granting a licence would result in a fuel duty advantage over other vehicles of the same type being used in the same circumstances
7.4 How to apply
You’ll need to be approved before using rebated fuel in your vehicle due to exceptional circumstances. To apply for a licence you must write to:
HMRC Fuel Duty Policy Team
You’ll need to include details of:
- the vehicle you wish to use rebated fuel in
- what the vehicle is normally used for
- the circumstances in which the vehicle will use rebated fuel and the frequency of that use
- the exceptional circumstance that prevents you using duty paid fuel
- the journeys the vehicle is likely to make and the estimated on-road and off-road distances it will cover
- the vehicle’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) tax classification
- the category of excepted vehicle (see section 8), if it’s an ‘excepted vehicle’
- where you’ll store the rebated fuel and the type of storage
- when you expect to start using rebated fuel in the vehicle and roughly how much you expect to use
- how long you expect to need to use rebated fuel
- the estimated volume of any rebated oil you expect to purchase and use for purposes other than as fuel for your vehicle
7.5 What we’ll do with your application
We’ll check to satisfy ourselves that:
- The use of the vehicle is essential.
- The circumstances are exceptional.
- There is no alternative solution.
- It would be unnecessarily obstructive to require you to take the necessary action to avoid using rebated oil.
If we decide not to issue a rebated fuel licence, we’ll advise you of our decision in writing.
7.6 If we approve your licence
If we decide you may use rebated fuel, we’ll send you a licence which you must present when you buy rebated (red) diesel. The licence will also tell you what your accounting period dates will be.
Our Tax Accounting Centre at Cumbernauld will send you forms HO72 and HO73.
You must provide an estimate of the fuel you will use during the accounting period on form HO72 and pay the fuel duty due, before you use any rebated fuel.
If you think you will use more than the volume you have paid duty on, you must use the HO73 to provide a further estimate and pay the duty before you use any more rebated oil.
7.7 Records you must keep
The law requires you to keep a daily record of all the rebated oil you use in your vehicle under the terms of the licence. You must keep them at the same place as the vehicle, or at any other premises agreed with our officer, for at least 12 months from the date of the last entry in them.
On the day the fuel is used you must record the registration mark and number of every vehicle using rebated oil as fuel, showing for each vehicle the:
- volume and description of rebated fuel used in the vehicle
- date of, and number of miles travelled in, any journey on or off public roads using rebated fuel
- date of, and number of miles travelled in, any journey on or off public roads using duty paid diesel
- volume of rebated fuel used in the vehicle other than for propulsion, for example, to drive machinery or pumps, providing this equipment is not powered by the engine that propels the vehicle
7.8 Accounting period declaration
At the end of the accounting period we will send you form HO75 so you can declare the amount of rebated fuel used in the period. You must return it to us within 10 days of the end of the accounting period. We will repay any duty paid for fuel that was subsequently not used.
7.9 If we decide to inspect your records
If one of our officers asks to see your records, they must be available at any reasonable time. This includes asking to see the licence to use rebated fuel issued by HMRC. We recommend that you carry a copy of this licence in any vehicle covered by it.
The ‘red diesel licence’ remains in force until we cancel it.
You must tell us of any changes to the information contained in your application for a ‘red diesel licence’, including when the exceptional circumstance that required the licence no longer applies.
We may periodically write to ask you to confirm that the details on the application remain correct and that the reason for needing to use rebated fuel still applies.
We will also cancel your licence if we are no longer satisfied that you should be approved to use rebated fuel, for instance, if you;
- fail to meet the obligations that arise from the licence
- use rebated fuel outside the terms allowed by the licence
- misuse rebated fuel, or facilitated its misuse
We will write to tell you the date your licence ceases, explain why, and give you an opportunity to respond. We will send you a final return form (HO75) to complete.
8. Excepted vehicles
8.1 Vehicles that can use red diesel
The Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979 defines road vehicles as any vehicle constructed or designed for use on roads. These vehicles must use fully duty paid petrol or diesel at all times.
Certain categories of vehicle are excluded and can therefore use red diesel, as long as their design and use meets specific conditions. The different categories of ‘excepted vehicle’ are explained in the following paragraphs.
We sometimes update this notice for changes to HMRC policy that could affect your situation. It is your responsibility to make sure your vehicle uses the correct fuel. Sign up for alerts to get the latest updates.
While many of the vehicles described in these paragraphs will be classed as ‘special vehicles’ by the DVLA, this does not confirm eligibility to use rebated fuel. To use rebated fuel, a vehicle must meet the specifications and be used only as allowed by the excepted vehicle categories listed in schedule 1 to the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979.
8.2 Unlicensed vehicles not used on public roads
You may use red diesel in your vehicle if you don’t keep or use it on a public road, for example if it’s used only on private land, providing:
- your vehicle is not licensed by the DVLA to use the road - licensed means taxed, even at a nil rate
- you have made a SORN to the DVLA, if you are required to
You make a SORN to the DVLA to declare that a vehicle will not be kept or used on public roads.
Some vehicles do not require a SORN. These include vehicles that became untaxed before 1 February 1998 and unregistered vehicles that have never used the public road. You should check your vehicle’s requirements with the DVLA.
Under the DVLA rules, if your vehicle is unregistered or has a SORN in place, you may use it on the public road only to go to and from a pre-booked MOT or other testing appointment. We will take action if we find your vehicle using red diesel on public roads at any other time.
To use red diesel, your tractor must be an agricultural tractor designed and constructed primarily for use otherwise than on roads. You must not use the tractor on public roads for activities other than for:
- purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture or forestry
- cutting verges bordering public roads
- cutting hedges or trees bordering public roads or bordering verges which border public roads
- gritting roads, including travel to and from where gritting takes place, and for the collection of equipment and material for gritting
See paragraph 8.23 for what we mean by activities falling within agriculture, horticulture or forestry.
8.4 Light agricultural vehicles
Light agricultural vehicles have a revenue weight not exceeding 1,000kg. They are designed and constructed to seat only the driver and primarily for use other than on roads. They may use red diesel if they are used only for purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture, forestry, or for gritting roads.
A vehicle’s revenue weight of a vehicle is either the maximum weight or the design weight as defined in section 60A of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994.
Quad bikes and similar single-seater machines used for agricultural, horticultural or forestry work fit into this category.
8.5 Agricultural material handlers
An agricultural material handler is a vehicle designed to lift goods or other loads and designed and constructed primarily for use off road. You may use red diesel in an agricultural material handler, provided you do not use public roads except for:
- agricultural, horticultural or forestry work
- cutting verges bordering public roads
- cutting hedges or trees that border either public roads or that border public roads
- gritting roads, including going to and from where gritting will be done and when collecting of equipment and material for gritting
8.6 Agricultural engines
This category is restricted to purpose-built vehicles that are designed and used solely for purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture or forestry and are used on public roads only for travelling to and from where the vehicle is to be or has been used for those purposes.
When being used for these purposes they must not carry a load, other than is necessary for their propulsion or for the operating machinery that is built-in or permanently attached to the vehicle.
Examples of vehicles in this category are combine harvesters, crop sprayers, forage harvesters and pea viners.
8.7 Agricultural processing vehicles
These are specialist agricultural vehicles that may use red diesel if they have built-in machinery for processing agricultural, horticultural or forestry produce that is used while the vehicle is stationary, and are used on public roads only for travelling to and from the place where that machinery is to be used.
When being used for these purposes they must not carry a load, other than is necessary for their propulsion or for operating the processing machinery.
Examples of vehicles in this category are mobile seed cleaning machines and feed milling machines.
8.8 Vehicles used between different parts of the land
You may use red diesel in your vehicle if it is used on public roads only when moving between different areas of land occupied by the same person, for purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture or forestry, as long as this does not involve travelling on public roads for more than 1.5 kilometres.
Your vehicle must also have a ‘nil licence’, being an exempt vehicle for the purposes of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994.
8.9 Mowing machines
You may use red diesel in a mowing machine as long as it is a complete vehicle, whether pedestrian-operated or ‘ride-on’, with grass cutting machinery built in.
8.10 Snow clearing vehicles
You may use red diesel in your vehicle when it is being used to clear snow from public roads by means of a snow plough or similar device temporarily or permanently fitted to it, or when it is going to or from the place where it is used for clearing snow.
Gritters must be constructed or adapted, and used, solely for carrying machinery for spreading grit or salt on roads to deal with frost, ice or snow.
Many of these vehicles are heavy goods vehicles that are temporarily converted for use as gritters in the winter months. If the gritting equipment is attached only for the winter, you may use red diesel as long as you use the vehicle only for gritting during this period.
You may also use red diesel for moving a gritter in readiness for cold weather, for gritting training, or going to and from where it will be maintained or tested.
You may not use red diesel if you use the spreading equipment for any reasons other than to deal with frost, ice or snow, even if the equipment is also used for gritting.
You may not use red diesel if your vehicle is:
- towing gritting equipment on a trailer
- carrying gritting equipment that is merely dropped in or held in place with straps
- designed or adapted to carry other equipment used for purposes other than gritting
- a drop-sided vehicle carrying grit, salt or other material for manual spreading
8.12 Mobile cranes
You may use red diesel if your vehicle is designed and constructed for use only as a mobile crane, has a revenue weight exceeding 3,500kg, and you use it on public roads only as a crane at or in the immediate vicinity of, a site, or for going to and from where it is used.
When being used for this purpose it must not carry any load except as necessary for its propulsion or for operating its built-in lifting apparatus.
If your mobile crane is dependent on another vehicle for transport to and from the place where it will be used, whether carried or trailer-mounted, the crane itself may use red diesel, but the carrier or towing vehicle may not.
You may not use red diesel if your vehicle is not designed for use only as a mobile crane, including:
- load carrying vehicles such as vans that have an access platform fitted
- vehicles fitted with a lifting arm for loading and unloading of goods to be transported or otherwise used or processed by the vehicle
- vehicles with a usable load carrying capacity, whether or not this is being used for this purpose
- vehicles with a turntable ladder
8.13 Mobile pumping vehicles
You may use red diesel in a pumping vehicle if it is constructed or adapted for use and used for conveying a pump and jib. You must use it on public roads only when the vehicle is stationary and the pump is being used to pump material from a point in the immediate vicinity to another such point, or when going to or from where the pump is used. When it is being used for these purposes, it must not carry the material that will be or has been pumped, or any other load, except that necessary for its propulsion or equipment of the vehicle or for operating the pump.
The pump and jib must be built in as part of the vehicle. The material pumped must be delivered to different heights or depths through piping attached to the pump and jib, with the height or depth of delivery being altered by operation of the jib.
Vehicles fitted retrospectively with a jib will only be accepted as meeting the requirements of this category if we are satisfied that the jib is capable of changing the height or depth of where the pumped material is delivered to a significant, observable extent. Vehicles without boom-mounted pumps such as mobile batching plants are not in this category, nor are load carrying vehicles fitted with boom-mounted pumps, such as gully-suckers.
8.14 Digging machines
To use red diesel, your vehicle must be designed, constructed and used for the purpose of trench digging or any kind of excavating or shovelling work. You must use it on the public road only for that purpose or when going to and from the place where it is used.
When your vehicle is being used for these purposes it must not carry any load except that necessary for its propulsion or for operating its equipment.
For your vehicle to meet the definition of a digging machine, it must have been designed and constructed as a single machine capable of carrying out a digging function. Such machines are normally tracked vehicles, and include earth scraping machines, mobile drilling rigs and road planing or abrading machines used to remove the road surface. A tractor with a built in front shovel may also be classed as a digging machine.
Vehicles used for the following activities do not qualify in this category:
- shot–blasting to remove paint or other material from the surfaces of bridges, girders and the like
- transporting a digging machine, whether carried or trailer-mounted
Where digging machines, drilling units and any ancillary apparatus, such as mud mixing equipment, are dependent on another, separately powered and fuelled vehicle to transport them to and from where they will be used, the digging machine itself may use red diesel in its engine, but the vehicle carrying or towing it may not.
This applies regardless of the extent of any design features or modifications that have been made to the transporting vehicle to facilitate moving the specific digging machine and its equipment. This includes where supporting apparatus is mounted and fastened, temporarily or permanently, in or on a vehicle for the convenience of moving it to and from different places where it will be used to support the digging machine when carrying out its work.
8.15 Works trucks
Your vehicle may use red diesel as a works truck if it is a goods vehicle designed for use in private premises. In any of the following circumstances, these vehicles must only be used on public roads:
- for carrying goods between private premises and a vehicle on a road no more than one kilometre away
- when passing from one part of private premises to another
- when passing between private premises and other private premises where the different premises are within one kilometre of each other
- in connection with road works at the site of the works or within one kilometre of the site of the works
In the context of this category a goods vehicle is a vehicle constructed or adapted for use and used for the conveyance of goods or burden of any description (whether in the course of trade or not).
Examples of works trucks are fork lift trucks, ‘shunt’ vehicles designed to haul articulated trailers and their goods around sites and special vehicles which lift and move freight containers around sites. Typically, the vehicle will have a maximum speed well below road traffic speeds of 30 miles per hour or more, and will lack many of the features, such as braking and lighting systems, required under the Road Traffic Act 1988.
A tractor towing a trailer is not a works truck.
8.16 Road rollers
Self-propelled vehicles with 1, 2 or 3 drums and walk-behind rollers may use red diesel.
8.17 Road surfacing vehicles
A road surfacing vehicle may use red diesel if it is designed and constructed to perform an operation necessary to construct or restore the surface of a road, has a maximum speed not exceeding 20 kilometres per hour, and does not carry any load on a public road except as is necessary for its propulsion or for operating any machinery built-in or permanently attached to it.
Vehicles such as asphalt pavers qualify in this category.
8.18 Tar sprayer
A tar sprayer may use red diesel if it is constructed or permanently adapted, and used only for spraying tar on to the road or when going to and from where it is used for that purpose.
Hot boxes used to transport and maintain tar at a desired temperature do not qualify in this or any other category.
8.19 What we mean by ‘public road’
A public road is one which is maintained at the public expense.
8.20 What we mean by ‘built in’
Built-in refers to equipment or features that are designed to be incorporated as an integral part of a vehicle, rather than being separate. The equipment would be such that it performs the primary function of the vehicle, such as lifting, pumping or digging equipment. We would expect these features not to be easily or quickly detachable. Separate equipment, supporting apparatus and optional accessories that were not designed to be an integral part of the vehicle, but are simply attached to it for security or ease of transport, are not considered to be built in.
8.21 What we mean by ‘a load necessary for propulsion or operation of equipment’
This means goods, material or equipment that the vehicle must carry because it couldn’t reasonably be operated without it. This may include fuel, lubricants, and tools necessary to make adjustments or to carry out any maintenance while the vehicle is being used. It also includes any equipment required to comply with health and safety regulations, such as cones to mark out a safe work zone, and operators’ personal protection equipment. Any other goods, materials or equipment not directly required for the propulsion of the vehicle or operation of the vehicle’s equipment may not be carried.
8.22 What we mean by ‘designed and constructed for use other than on roads’
Although some vehicles are capable of being driven on a road and equipped to legally do so, their specialist design will be such that they are clearly intended to be driven and used predominantly off-road.
This includes vehicles designed and intended primarily for use over land, snow, ice, marsh, swampland, or other natural terrain and not intended for use predominantly on roads, whether or not public roads.
Examples will include farm machinery, farm tractors, and other vehicles used exclusively for agricultural purposes; any self-propelled equipment specifically designed for harvesting and transportation of forest products, for clearing land for planting, for utility services and maintenance, for earth moving, construction, or mining.
Vehicles designed primarily for use on roads, but that are also capable of, or have been adapted for, some degree of cross-country or off-road use, for example, by having all-wheel drive systems, higher ground clearance and special tyres fitted, are not accepted as being designed and constructed primarily for use other than on roads, regardless of how they are normally used.
8.23 What we mean by ‘agriculture, horticulture or forestry’
HMRC applies the following definitions of agriculture, horticulture and forestry:
- agriculture - the science and art of cultivating the soil, growing and gathering in crops, and rearing of livestock
- horticulture - the science and art of cultivating or managing gardens, including the growing of flowers, fruits and vegetables
- forestry - the science and art of forming and cultivating forests and the management of growing timber
8.24 Activities relating to agriculture, horticulture or forestry
When it changed the rules on red diesel entitlement in January 2007, the government commissioned HMRC and industry representatives to jointly establish and publish a code of practice defining purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture or forestry. This led to the publication on 10 January 2008 of the Memorandum of Agreement in respect of the use of agricultural vehicles on the road, signed by HMRC, DVLA, the National Farmers Union, the National Association of Agricultural Contractors, and the Confederation of Forest Industries. The Memorandum is reproduced at section 9.
9. Memorandum of Agreement
Memorandum of Agreement in respect of the use of agricultural vehicles on the road
Parties to the agreement
In consideration of the need for clearly understood and easily applied guidelines on the use of agricultural vehicles on road, and the need for these guidelines to respect the intent of the law whilst minimising regulatory burdens on the agricultural, horticultural and forestry industries, the following government departments and agencies and industry associations have reached a common position on how legislation shall be interpreted and applied:
- HM Revenue and Customs
- Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency
- National Farmers Union
- National Association of Agricultural
- Contractors Confederation of Forest Industries
The purpose of this Memorandum of Agreement is to provide guidance to those engaged in agriculture, horticulture and forestry, and to agencies enforcing compliance with the legislation. Where disputes arise these will continue to be considered on an individual basis with regard to the relevant legislation and any definitive interpretation of the law would remain to be given by the courts.
Scope of agreement
This memorandum of agreement is restricted to the use of agricultural vehicles by the occupier of the land or the owner of the crop, or to a contractor or other person engaged to perform an agricultural, horticultural or forestry operation on the land. The agreement applies to the following types of vehicle:
- agricultural tractors
- agricultural engines
- agricultural material handlers
- light agricultural vehicles
- vehicles used between different parts of land
Definitions of these vehicles, for hydrocarbon oils duty purposes, can be found in schedule 1 to the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979, as amended.
Definitions of agricultural vehicles, for vehicle excise duty purposes, can be found in schedule 2 to the Vehicle Excise Registration Act 1994, as amended.
When vehicles covered by this agreement are used on public roads solely for purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture, or forestry they are:
- exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty
- entitled to use rebated gas oil (red diesel)
Other classes of vehicles that are exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty or entitled to use red diesel are not covered by this agreement.
Activities accepted as falling within the definition of agriculture, horticulture or forestry include the:
- breeding or rearing of any creature kept for the production of food, wool, skin or fur, or for the purpose of its use in the farming of land
- growing or harvesting of crops including cereals, combinable crops, roots, tubers, vegetables, pulses, fruit, nuts, grasses, oilseeds and fungi for food, beverages, fodder, fuel or industrial purposes
- growing or harvesting of flowering or ornamental plants
- growing or harvesting of timber or other forestry products
- upkeep of agricultural land such as set aside under environmental management schemes
Activities not accepted as falling within the definition of agriculture, horticulture or forestry include:
- the breeding, rearing or keeping of any creature for purposes relating to sport or recreation
- dealing in agricultural, horticultural or forestry products
- the maintenance of recreational facilities, including beaches
- flood protection
- peat or loam extraction
- the exploitation of wild animal or fish stocks
- construction of buildings or other structures used for purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture or forestry
- transportation of agricultural, horticultural or forestry produce, livestock, implements, inputs or waste, other than where this is incidental to an agricultural, horticultural or forestry operation being performed on the land - accepted transportation uses are as set out under this agreement
Subject to restrictions in the definition of the particular type of vehicle, agricultural vehicles may use red diesel on public roads and will maintain exemption from vehicle excise duty in the following circumstances.
Movement of machinery
- travel to and from a place where the vehicle is to be used or has been used solely for agricultural, horticultural or forestry purposes
- transport of trailed or mounted agricultural, horticultural and forestry implements, and of equipment or inputs required for the operation of such an implement, as part of an agricultural, horticultural or forestry operation - this does not include transportation or towing of personal accommodation
- taking agricultural vehicles and trailed or mounted implements to be serviced or repaired
- delivery or collection of an agricultural vehicle used solely for agricultural, horticultural, or forestry purposes that has been bought, sold or hired
Movement of machinery by dealers and others not engaged in agriculture, horticulture or forestry is not covered by this agreement.
Movement of produce and livestock
- transportation of agricultural, horticultural or forestry produce within or between different areas of land occupied by the same person
- transportation of livestock within or between different areas of land occupied by the same person
- transport of agricultural, horticultural or forestry produce from the place of production or temporary storage
- transport of livestock to a place where the produce is to be sold or slaughtered
The transportation of produce must be incidental to an agricultural, horticultural or forestry operation being performed on the land. The responsibility is on the person transporting the load to demonstrate that this is the case. Transportation of produce which requires an operator’s licence may not be accepted as being incidental. Transportation on public roads of produce or livestock by a contractor employed solely for that purpose is not included within this agreement.
Movement of agricultural, horticultural and forestry inputs
Collection of inputs and equipment to be used as part of an agricultural, horticultural or forestry operation, and transport within or between different areas of land occupied by the same person of inputs and equipment to be used as part of an agricultural, horticultural or forestry operation.
- hand tools
- fertilisers (including farm produced manures and slurries)
- animal bedding, feed and water
- fencing materials
- road plans for the repair of unsealed tracks
This does not include:
- household furniture or fittings
- supplies required for domestic use
- organic waste for disposal on agricultural land
Movement of waste
- movement of agricultural, horticultural or forestry waste, within and between different parts of land occupied by the same person - the waste should have been produced by the occupier of the land
- transport of agricultural, horticultural or forestry waste from the place where the waste was produced to a place where it is to be collected by a licensed waste carrier (or to a licensed waste disposal site if nearer) - this includes inorganic waste such as plastic packaging
- clearing the road after agricultural, horticultural or forestry operations
- snow clearing to restore access
Additional information on the use of agricultural vehicles on the road
Red diesel use in tractors
You can use red diesel in your tractor for any activity, if it does not involve going on the public road. If you do take your tractor on the public road, you can use red diesel so long as the tractor is designed and constructed for off-road use and you take it on the road only for:
- purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture or forestry
- cutting verges bordering public roads
- cutting hedges or trees bordering public roads or bordering verges which border public roads
- gritting roads
Meaning of ‘purposes relating to agriculture’
In our view, agriculture is the growing and harvesting of crops, for food, beverages, fodder, fuel, or industrial purposes; or the rearing of animals for the production of food, wool, leather, fur or other substances. The keeping or breeding of animals for leisure (breeding dogs or racehorses for example) is not agriculture. The growing of plants for other reasons is not agriculture, but will sometimes be horticulture. Using a tractor for ‘purposes relating to agriculture’ includes using it to:
- transport agricultural ‘inputs; such as feed, fertilizer, fence posts, and so on for use on your farm (by ‘your farm’, we mean the farm that you own or manage, but also the farm where you work)
- take your produce and livestock to market or for processing (including slaughter)
- move produce and livestock between your farm and an associated storage facility
- transport material to be used for maintaining or improving your farmland (including drainage pipes)
- transport materials to repair and maintain your farm buildings (other than the farmhouse itself)
- deliver agricultural waste from your farm to a waste tip
- transport vehicles and equipment for use on your farm
Meaning of ‘purposes relating to horticulture’
In our view, horticulture is the cultivation and management of gardens (including vegetable plots, allotments and market gardens, but also flowerbeds, trees, shrubberies and ornamental lawns in public parks). By cultivation and management, we mean growing and tending flowers, lawns, shrubs and trees, and harvesting flowers, fruits and vegetables for food (or animal fodder) and for ornament, as well as treating and enriching the soil and controlling weeds and pests. But, we do not regard as horticulture the landscaping and maintenance of grassy recreational areas, such as playing fields and golf courses, or the grassed areas of parks that are made available for walks, picnics and general recreation. Using a tractor for purposes relating to horticulture includes using it to:
- travel to and from a place where it will be used for horticulture
- transport trailed or mounted implements to be used for horticulture
- take your horticultural produce to a market or to a place where it is to be sold or processed
- move your horticultural produce between the place where it is grown and an associated storage facility
- deliver horticultural waste from the place of production to a waste tip
- transport horticultural inputs such as seed, fertiliser, pesticides and so on for use in your own garden or in land set aside for horticulture
Meaning of ‘purposes relating to forestry’
In our view, forestry is the upkeep and management of forests including the growing and harvesting of timber and other forestry products. Using a tractor for purposes relating to forestry includes using it to:
- travel to and from a place where it will be used for forestry
- transport trailed or mounted forestry implements and machinery to and from the place they will be used for forestry
- move timber that you (or your co- worker) have harvested from where it was harvested to the place where it is to be stored, sold or processed
The 15 mile limit for travel on public roads
If you travel more than 15 miles from the farm you should check with the DVLA whether you need a goods vehicle operator’s licence. There is no distance limit on the use of red diesel as long as the tractor is involved in an agriculture, horticulture and forestry activity.
Working on someone else’s farm
If you are contracted or otherwise engaged to carry out agricultural work at a farm, you can use rebated diesel in your tractor when:
- driving it to and from the farm, (where you are going to use it for the contracted work)
- carrying the materials or equipment that you need to do the work
- removing any produce or waste resulting from the contracted work
Service providers - hire companies, dealers, and hauliers
You cannot use rebated diesel if you are not directly involved in the agricultural activity, for example if you’re:
- a dealer in farm equipment or materials, delivering materials or equipment that a farmer has leased or purchased from you
- lending equipment to a farmer
- a haulier employed to transport animals, produce, goods or equipment to or from a farm
Using your tractor to transport agricultural produce
If you were engaged in an agricultural operation such as the growing or harvesting of crops, you may use red diesel for this purpose and for subsequently transporting the produce to where it will be sold or put to its intended use.
But, if your involvement is limited only to transporting the crops, we consider the use of the vehicle to be for haulage, not for purposes relating to agriculture. This would apply to someone contracted, for example, solely to transport crops from an agricultural producer to an anaerobic digestion plant. There is no entitlement to use rebated fuel to undertake such journeys.
Transporting waste material
You may use red diesel to deliver waste material resulting from an agricultural activity on your farm to where it will be disposed of, sold or otherwise processed. You may also use red diesel if you are collecting waste material for agricultural use on your own farm, or the farm on which you work, or are contracted to carry out agricultural work, for example, spreading fertiliser on fields. You may not use red diesel if you are only transporting the waste material and you are not engaged in either the agricultural activity that produced it or in which it will be used.
Examples of when you can use rebated diesel
Clearing felled timber would be considered as part of forestry harvesting and you would be allowed to use rebated fuel in a recognised ‘excepted’ vehicle. But you should note that this must be a forest, or a commercial forestry enterprise. Cutting down a tree on your farm is not forestry work, even if you sell the timber.
Hedges and verges
You can use rebated fuel to cut hedges and trim verges that border a public road – this includes removing the trimmings and cutting because this is regarded as part of the same process.
You can use rebated fuel in a self-propelled, or ‘sit-on’, mower. This includes any travel on public roads to the place where it will be used.
Ditch clearing and drainage
You can use rebated fuel for ditch clearing and drainage only if it is done solely for the benefit of land used for agriculture, horticulture or forestry.
You can use rebated fuel in a tractor being used to spread grit on a public road to deal with snow and ice, to get to and from the place that needs gritting, and to collect the gritting equipment and material.
Short distances on public roads
You can use rebated diesel in a vehicle on a public road, to travel between 2 parts of land owned by the same person provided the:
- vehicle has a ‘nil’ licence from the DVLA
- vehicle is used only for agricultural, horticultural, or forestry activities
- distance travelled on public roads is no more than 1.5 kilometres.
Crossing a public road
Crossing a public road is using the road, and is subject to the same conditions and restrictions. Everything within this notice applies even if you only cross the road rather than travel along it.
Mobile seed (or feed) machinery
Agricultural processing vehicles with built in machinery may use rebated fuel on public roads to travel to and from the place where they will be used, but they must not carry any load. See section 8.7.
If your business involves the cultivation and maintenance of a garden or gardens then it is within the definition of horticulture and you can use rebated diesel in your tractor provided the vehicle is only used in that environment. If you work somewhere that isn’t a garden, such as playing fields, a livery yard, stables, at the side of the road, on someone’s private land, then this is not horticulture, the vehicle is not an ‘excepted’ vehicle, and you must use duty paid fuel all the time. (see ‘meaning of horticulture’ in the “Memorandum of Agreement”)
Examples of when you cannot use rebated diesel
Sports fields and recreational areas
You cannot use rebated fuel to maintain the grassed areas of sports fields or recreational area because we do not regard this as horticulture.
You cannot use rebated fuel in your tractor on public roads if the work you are going to do is not agricultural, horticultural, or forestry. For example, if you are cutting down trees or vegetation on wasteland then you should not use rebated fuel.
Stables and livery yards
You cannot use rebated fuel for work done in a stables or livery yard because keeping animals for sport or recreation is not agriculture.
You cannot use rebated diesel in a tractor being used to build flood defences.
We do not permit any ‘dual tank’ fuel system that allows a vehicle to swap between rebated and unrebated fuel.
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