The Government's decision to hike VAT to 20% is a "major mistake" that could cost Northern Ireland's small businesses and consumers dearly, according to the body representing independent retailers.
Glyn Roberts from the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association said that the increase in VAT from 17.5% announced in Chancellor George Osborne's Budget was not fair on small firms.
"The VAT hike to 20% is a regressive move which will do absolutely nothing to restore consumer confidence, and get them spending again in our shops," said Mr Roberts.
"It could well result in a further drop in consumer spending, which could mean even more unemployment and business closures.
"In terms of small retailers, there is the further expense of having to change their pricing, which could cost them nearly £2,000, not to mention the considerable hassle of making these changes.
"Hiking VAT means that low income families will be hit further when buying goods and services, reducing the impact of the their tax cut announced in the Budget."
Lyn Hagan, tax partner at Goldblatt McGuigan, said that among the Budget announcements the rise in VAT would, alongside the freeze in public sector pay, have the biggest impact in Northern Ireland.