Weddings in the woods or on mountain tops could provide a diversification opportunity for every farmer in England and Wales, financial experts say.

The 2018 Budget contained a proposal for the Law Commission to look at a fairer and simpler wedding system in England and Wales.

If the measure is successful, this should open the gate for farmers and estate owners to rent out woodlands, lawns, islands, gardens, hill tops and arboretums for example for wedding ceremonies, according to chartered accountants Saffery Champness.

However, the company highlights a warning that there will be a number of tax considerations for those going down this path.

Outdoor weddings are currently legal in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Jersey, but not so in England and Wales where weddings can only take place in approved venues with a registrar or religious celebrant present.

The change would mean that the location would not need to be registered, but to be legally binding the wedding would still need to be carried out by a registered person.

David McGeachy, Head of VAT at Saffery Champness, said: “The main question is one of VAT as the passive letting of land or property, without any further engagement by the owners, would normally be VAT exempt assuming there has been no option to tax over the land made by them.

“VAT is likely to be due when other services are added so that the overall package then becomes vatable – in this instance additional services could be the supply of chairs, flowers, toilets, marquee, staff or a host of other aspects.”

He added: “Other more subtle elements such as the helpfulness of the owners and staff, as recorded in customer reviews, are also potential evidence of other services being provided with the venue.”

“HMRC has a record of being successful in finding the entire charge is standard rated for VAT as part of an overall events package which in turn increases the cost of the hire.

“This is just a word of caution as hopefully the new ruling, when it happens, will allow for al fresco weddings in England and Wales to be held in many fantastic outdoor locations.

“For those providing the venue and any other services, they would be wise to speak to their professional adviser if they intend to make this a regular part of their business,” Mr McGeachy said.

Source: Farming UK