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Beware the Law doesn't let you have 'both barrels' If you operate or run a shoot on your land

There is a surprisingly large mass of legislation relating to, and regulating, shoots.

Here I attempt a brief examination of some of the points that should be considered, some of which will not be to the forefront of the land owners’ mind:

Health and Safety

If your shoot has five or more employees at any one time, it is a legal requirement to have a written Health and Safety Policy. Such an employer must prepare and, as often as may be appropriate revise, a written statement of his general policy with respect to the Health and Safety at work of his employees and the organisation and arrangements for the time being in force for carrying out that policy. See Section 2(3) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1954. This statement, and any revision must be brought to the notice of all the employer’s employees.

The employer may be liable to criminal prosecution, leading to a significant fine and/or imprisonment if he does not have a written Health and Safety Policy.


The definition extends not only to full or part time game keepers or regular workers, the law will cover temporary employees including beaters, loaders and pickers up on shoot days. Any benefit in kind (e.g. a brace at the end of the day) could amount to remuneration sufficient to render the individual an employee.

Foreign Workers

Many shoots engage foreign workers.   Under Section 2(3) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the safety policy (and any revisions to it) must be brought to the attention of all employees, English speaking or otherwise. There have been cases recently of the Executive insisting that all Health and Safely related documents, reports and notices be produced and available to employees in their particular language. Non- compliance may be in direct breach of Section 2(3).

A risk assessment of the shoot is also in line with the Code of Good Shooting Practice and The Game Shoot Standard Assurance Scheme. Failure to comply with these rules may lead to expulsion from schemes, or the loss of affiliations, which can be essential to the marketing and running of the shoot.


When a commercial shoot’s taxable income reaches the threshold, currently £68,000, it should register for VAT purposes. All taxable supplies, including the sale of all goods and services, are to be taken into account when calculating the shoot’s income. The sale of capital assets is not to be taken into account for these purposes.

Where the shoot is operated by a separate business entity, it is the taxable income of that entity which is taken into account when calculating whether the threshold has been met. Taxable income from sources other than the shoot will be taken into account. This is important where the shoot is being operated by an entity also involved in the farming activities.

From the point of registration the shoot must charge VAT at the standard rate on all taxable supplies.

Other points to ponder

  • Rent paid for shooting rights is taxable at the standard rate
  • The sale of dead game is zero rated as it is food!
  • Income Tax – PAYE and NIC Treatment: HMRC recognise that practicable problems will arise in trying to operate PAYE procedures in full for a short term arrangement. In practice, there are few estates where there will be more than or perhaps 15 days at most in the whole year on which there will be shooting on a scale requiring beaters and, moreover, that the shooting will be taking place at separate intervals. Where a beater is engaged for a period of only one day or less, and the employment ends that day with no agreement for further employment, it is accepted that PAYE should not be applied where such beaters are paid off in cash at the end of the day.The agreement does not apply to the deduction of National Insurance contributions. If a beater’s casual earnings were such that they equalled or exceeded in any earnings period the National Insurance lower earnings limit, the shoot would be required to keep National Insurance records, deduct both primary and secondary National Insurance contributions and complete forms P11 and P14.
  • Records – An employer may be required to report on an annual return P35 at the end of the tax year, details of any person who has received in excess of £100.00. Adequate records must, therefore, be maintained of all payments made to casuals, irrespective of amount. Shoot owners or other organisers are likely, in addition, to find that the retention of these records will be of assistance in satisfying auditors that PAYE liability does not arise.