For our industry in Northern Ireland it is a key priority. The retail sector is 12 per cent of the economy in Northern Ireland but pays a quarter of all business rates. That is both inequitable and unsustainable. We have a plethora of exemptions an reliefs here in Northern Ireland some of which have been in place from the 1930s when our high streets and industries looked very different. We have the highest top rate of business rate taxation of anywhere in the UK by over eleven pence in the pound! We need to level the playing field.
The truth is that retail is in the midst of a seismic transformation that has already started in GB. Retail will contract and the rates regime, if not fixed, will speed up that contraction. That’s not just bad for retailers. Less retail means less rates revenue which means either less income for councils and Stormont departments to spend, or those that are left pay more which will hasten decline.
Here is our response including our recommendations for fundamental reform which should be measured by the following key principles:
- Fairness to businesses across NI
- Internationally competitive
- Flexible enough to respond to the economic cycle
- Includes incentives for businesses to invest
- Simple and more cost effective to administer