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Poor broadband provision could make it difficult for farmers to adapt to a new digitised tax system, union leaders have warned.

According to the NFU, NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers' Union, the Making Tax Digital scheme relies on access to digital infrastructure that is not available in many rural locations.

Indeed, the organisations pointed out that five per cent of the UK population does not have sufficient access to broadband, of whom many are farmers.

As a result, they believe it will be "almost impossible" for some farmers to adapt to the new system and believe its implementation should be delayed.

Meurig Raymond, President of the NFU, commented: "The government proposes that Making Tax Digital will bring business tax into the digital age, but for many of our members the digital age has yet to be delivered.

"This fact, combined with overwhelming complexity, is why action is necessary. We have serious concerns for those farm businesses that will be among the first forced to comply with these changes and the issues this may bring, not to mention the potential costs involved."

Mr Raymond acknowledged that the government has said it will delay the implementation of Making Tax Digital until 2019 for small businesses.

However, he said the practical implications have "not been properly assessed" and that ministers must first ensure the system is sufficiently tested by farm business owners.

"There is insufficient time available for the industry and HMRC to achieve what is required for this to work," Mr Raymond added.

According to figures from the four unions, two-thirds of farmers run diversified enterprises requiring different accounting and tax adjustments, as well as potentially separate income and expenditure reporting.

The organisations said there is also a lack of suitable and registered software that is compliant with the proposed measures, adding that quarterly tax returns provide little benefit to farmers or HMRC because of the sector's seasonality.

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