Revenue E-Brief

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Revenue E-Brief Issue 50, 3 October 2008

Decommissioning of Fishing Vessels


The 2008 Decommissioning Scheme (“the Scheme”) was implemented by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in accordance with Council Regulation (EU) No.1198/2006 of 27 July 2006. It provides for payments to fishing vessel owners in exchange for the permanent withdrawal of the vessels from the whitefish sector of the Irish fishing fleet and their removal from the EU register of sea fishing vessels.

Treatment of Decommissioning Payments

Payments received under the Scheme are capital receipts and chargeable to tax under the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) regime. For CGT purposes, the relevant chargeable assets are the decommissioned vessel and the attaching tonnage. Payments should be apportioned between both assets by reference to their market value at the time of disposal and separate computations should be prepared on that basis.

Time of Disposal

For CGT purposes, the time of disposal is the date the licence for the decommissioned vessel is surrendered in accordance with the terms of the scheme.

Costs/Receipts associated with the Permanent Disposal or Scrapping of Vessels

These costs are not strictly deductible under section 552 TCA 1997. However, as it is a requirement of the Scheme that decommissioned vessels are permanently disposed of or scrapped, costs incurred for that purpose may be deducted from the part of the decommissioning payment attributable to the vessel when computing the gain or loss on the vessel. Any amount received by the owner on disposal or scrapping should be added to the part of the payment attributable to the vessel.

Retirement Relief

Section 598 Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides for retirement relief on the disposal of “qualifying assets” by an individual who is aged 55 years or over. “Qualifying assets” include assets used for the purposes of an individual’s trade which, apart from tangible movable property, he/she has owned and used for that purpose throughout the 10 year period ending with their disposal.

Section 54 Finance Act 2008, which is operative from 1 May 2008, amends section 598. It reduces the age limit to from 55 years to 45 years and the periods of ownership and use requirements from 10 years to 6 years for payments received under the Scheme.

While retirement relief can apply to gains accruing on both fishing vessels and tonnage, it should be noted that the ownership and use requirements referred to above do not apply to vessels as they are tangible movable property. They do, however, apply to tonnage. Where a vessel is replaced, additional tonnage may be required to meet the capacity of the replacement vessel. For the purpose of section 598 (3A) TCA 1997, tonnage acquired for this purpose in the six years prior to decommissioning may be treated as having been acquired at the same time, and having been used in the same manner, as the tonnage attaching to the replaced vessel.

Loss or destruction of an asset

Section 536 TCA 1997 allows for deferment of a CGT charge in certain circumstances where compensation is received for assets lost or destroyed and where the amount received is used in acquiring a replacement asset.

While it is not absolutely clear in the case of a voluntary disposal that an asset is lost or destroyed, Revenue will, without prejudice, consider claims under section 536 (2) where the part of the compensation attributable to tonnage is applied, within 12 months of receipt, in acquiring replacement tonnage.

This treatment does not apply to fishing vessels as they are wasting assets for CGT purposes.

Capital Allowances

Because the vessel ceases to belong to the person carrying on the fishing trade, a balancing event occurs in accordance with section 288 TCA, 1997. The amount to be taken into account for the purposes of calculating any balancing allowance or charge is the part of the decommissioning payment attributable to the vessel plus any payment received on the disposal or scrapping of the vessel. The part of the payment attributable to tonnage is not to be taken into account. This is because capital allowances are not available for expenditure incurred on the acquisition of tonnage. Where allowances have mistakenly been claimed on such expenditure, any adjustments required to reflect the correct position should be made.

Section 30 Finance Act 2008, which is operative from 17 April 2008, provides that a balancing charge arising as a result of payments received under the Scheme will be spread over 5 years, commencing in the year in which the payment is paid.