Most arable farmers probably have no option but to live by the old ‘never put off until tomorrow what you can do today’ maxim during the hectic sowing, spraying and harvest seasons.

But I guess most of us have the occasional blind spot when it comes to getting on with some of the less immediate or rewarding tasks – especially if they mean spending even more time in the farm office.

For while the kudos of cracking on with the macho jobs and the satisfaction of getting them done often provides reward enough in itself, I’d have to admit to being guilty of avoiding knuckling down to a couple of the less muscular tasks which I know need addressing.

As a poor tenant farmer, one of these is drawing up the schedule for the tenants’ improvements amnesty which opened some time ago.

Now most folk will know that this amnesty marks a never-to-be-repeated opportunity to have work which has been carried out by a tenant in the past – but which hasn’t had the proper notification served to the landlord – formally recognised and recorded.

The amnesty is designed to make the process of working out what compensation is due to a tenant for any ‘improvements’ – such as the erection of buildings, drainage schemes, fencing and other acts which will add value to the farm but which has been paid for by the tenant – at waygo, should the tenancy comes to an end.

But the exercise has been given additional importance as it will also provide a formal record of what the tenant has contributed to the farm when the new process for calculating rent – using the productive capacity of the farm – is eventually introduced (and it now looks likely that this will be 2019, for use on 2020 reviews at the earliest).

So, if you’ve put up a new grain drier, improved the old one, erected or extended sheds and buildings or provided any other fixtures, then there are two good reasons for getting on with the task. While it’s likely that we all want to have our work recognised, it’s also a pretty safe bet that no one wants to pay their landlord rent on what they’ve paid for themselves.

But the realisation that we’re now pretty much half way through the three-year period – along with learning that the exercise has to be completed by June, 2020, rather than just started – has finally been enough to prompt some action on my own part.

Another spur was hearing that the job is likely to take a good nine months to complete and possibly a deal longer if the farm tenancy has been in the family for several generations.

This information was imparted at a meeting organised by the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA) which took place on a local farm and highlighted some of the issues which we should be looking at – and which is definitely worth going along to if there’s one taking place near you.

But the organisation admitted that it was treading a delicate line with these events. While they want to make tenants aware that the job might take a bit longer than many might imagine, they don’t want to put tenants off starting by making the whole thing sound too difficult.

While most of the ‘spade work’ on gathering together details of what work had been done – often over several generations – can be completed by the tenant himself, the STFA said that the help of an agent would probably be advantageous in the later stages. A list of what has been done will be a useful starting point, bringing in an impartial eye to make sure that you pick everything up – and don’t get bogged down with things which wouldn’t actually make too much difference at the end of the day anyway. It just might well make getting a bit of professional help worth the money.

You’re also likely to find yourself having to provide evidence of paying for the work, or of how much your share was if the work was jointly funded by the tenant and the landlord, or if there was a grant element included as well. Some expert advice is likely to be helpful here too, but it’s probably worth remembering that with the likelihood of a last-minute rush being firmly written on the cards, getting this organised pretty soon might be a sensible move.

One piece of good news was the fact that, unlike many tenant/landlord issues, the expense of a lawyer is only really likely to be required at the end of the process to check the submission once it has been drafted.

It was also good to hear the Tenant Farming Commissioner, Bob McIntosh, express his opinion that the claims of some factoring land agents that three quotes for each piece of work would be required, along with building warrants and electrical certificates were ‘just nonsense’. He said that both sides should work in a constructive manner to get the exercise completed – and suggested that an on-farm visit should see most issues covered and would be much quicker than endless correspondence.

So it’s a lot of work – and while it might help reduce arguments at rent review time, there won’t really be much payback unless you ever decide to quite the tenancy. However, I’ve finally got round to drawing up a list so that job is now underway.

The other task which I’ve been promising myself that I really must get on with is, I have to admit, likely to be even less rewarding. For, again, while most folk will have heard of HMRC’s changes under the Making Tax Digital (MTD) initiative, I suspect that few will have done much about it either.

While the revenue itself seems to have been keeping fairly quiet on the issue and leaving the job of breaking the bad news up to your accountant, the vast majority of farmers are going to have to institute a fairly major change to their book-keeping systems by April next year. From that date, VAT returns will need to be held in digital format and supplied to HMRC on a quarterly basis through a link with the actual computer software which has been used to calculate your returns, quite possibly via cloud accounting.

While most of us will have been using some sort of computer system to calculate how much VAT they’re due to pay or reclaim, the HMRC portal which we use to manually transfer these results over to will no longer be available – and computer must speak directly to computer.

I think the cunning plan is to allow them to effectively access our workings, making it easier to spot where any mistakes – or fraud – is happening. But while it might save HMRC millions in lost revenue, I suspect that it will cost industry a similar figure in upgrading their accounting software and computer hardware to cope with it.

I’m off to see the accountant about it this week, but I can’t help but feel that with the steep learning curve which lies ahead, the scheme would have been better called Making Digital Taxing …