The terms attached to the Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme (TBESS) need to be reviewed, according to IFA National Farm Business Chair Rose Mary McDonagh.
Ms McDonagh said “as part of Budget 2023, TBESS was introduced to support businesses in dealing with increases in their energy costs between last September and next month, in comparison to the previous year. Farm businesses have experienced a huge increase in their energy costs so a fit for purpose scheme was badly needed. However, the current scheme is not working on the ground for farming and agricultural businesses, from the reports I am getting.”
“At our AGM earlier this week, the Taoiseach mentioned in his speech that there has been a low uptake of this scheme so far. I have had numerous discussions with farmers that either do not qualify for this scheme as their energy costs had already started to rise dramatically before September 2021, or they are concerned that their advisors will not get their application submitted prior to next Tuesday’s deadline,” she said.
The first issue is on how the calculation for qualification of this support takes place. It compares costs on a monthly basis to that month the previous year and if there has been a 50% increase in the unit cost, then the business qualifies for that month.
Unfortunately, comparisons begin in September 2021, at which stage energy costs had already risen considerably, so many will not qualify even though they have experienced large increases in their energy costs. Secondly, the requirement to return each billing period separately is proving very costly with some farmers and small businesses reporting that the cost to get their accountant to make each return is more than what the relief will be.
“I am asking the Government to look at this scheme again to simplify it to achieve its objective of supporting farmers and other businesses in meeting higher energy bills. An average energy price for 2021 in comparison to 2022 should be sufficient. We are also suggesting one return to cover the billing period,” she said.
The Farm Business chair concluded, “given the difficulties relating to this scheme, at a minimum we need an extension to the current scheme deadline of next Tues to allow more time to submit applications”.