SHOOTS may need to double-check whether they are inadvertently breaching rules on minimum wages and what and when they should be reporting to HMRC.

The rules surrounding the use of beaters are complicated, which is leading to confusion among shoot operators, including farmers running private shoots.

Property experts Strutt & Parker, legal advisers Michelmores, and accountants Saffery Champness have produced a joint briefing paper to help landowners.

Rhodri Thomas, shoot adviser and head of Strutt & Parker’s South-West Region, said: “One of the difficulties is that many beaters and pickers-up do not view what they do as a job or employment, as they do it for pure enjoyment. However, the authorities may still class them as an employee.

“Where this is the case, the rules on minimum wage apply unless it is possible to prove to HMRC that the arrangement between the beater and the shoot meets its definition of a very casual arrangement.”

All ‘workers’ on a shoot must be paid at least the national minimum wage, if aged under 25, or the national living wage, if over 25, for every hour they work.

Ben Sharples, agricultural partner at Michelmores, said: “Who is a worker is widely defined and is likely to cover most beaters, in particular those operating on formal commercial shoots.

“There are exemptions for anyone genuinely self-employed, but to prove this they would probably need to be actively marketing their services to third parties, rather than just being recruited by a shoot to be an integral part of it.

“People on a very casual arrangement, where there is no intention to create legal relations, would also be exempt. However, the typical lump sum daily payment that many beaters receive, plus the provision of benefits such as lunch and brace of pheasants, could well be construed as an intention to create legal relations – particularly if beaters are expected to turn up to scheduled shoots on set days.”

Best practice is for shoots to keep detailed records of the working time of all workers, excluding lunch and rest breaks. They can then calculate what they need to pay per day in order to meet the minimum wage rates.

For example, a 55-year-old beater who worked from 8am to 4pm with two hours off for lunch and rest breaks, would be working six hours. To ensure they meet the NLW minimum of £7.50 per hour their total pay would be £45 per day. Lunch and the option to take a brace of birds do not count as pay.

Shoots are responsible for accounting to HMRC for PAYE and National Insurance Contributions for any permanent employees.

Liz Brierley, partner at Saffery Champness, said: “This means that every such time an employee is paid, the shoot must tell HMRC how much tax and National Insurance has been deducted using the on-line Real Time Information system.”

The RTI exemption that allowed shoots to report payments to beaters on a monthly basis has been removed and all payments must be reported to HMRC within seven days.

“Shoots do not have to deduct tax and National Insurance from a worker’s pay if they employ them for two weeks or less as a casual worker. However, their pay is still taxable income and the worker must ensure that any tax due is paid. Some shoots choose to pay tax on behalf of the worker to avoid any potential underpayment.”

Shoots must keep records of payments to workers for at least three years. As a minimum, a shoot should have a record of the name, date of birth, gender, NI number, address and how much it has paid each worker.