Northern Ireland Executive 'must address rates for smaller firms'
Stormont must address concerns over business rates to show it supports small firms as well as attracting big foreign investment, it has been claimed.
Business groups have reiterated calls to revamp rates here, which they say are a "significant financial burden on businesses, restricting growth and on occasions forcing them to close".
Addressing the Assembly's Finance Committee, Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill and Glyn Roberts of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association said: "While we support the devolution of corporation tax, radically reforming business rates is a much higher priority for our members.
"The Executive needs to show that it gives as much priority to supporting our sectors as it does to attracting foreign direct investment"
Mr Neill and Mr Roberts added: "Both our organisations are putting forward a radical alternative to the current system of small business rate relief, which will be targeted to the independent retail and hospitality sectors. Both sectors make a huge contribution to our local economy, town centres and tourism."
They also said the alternative plan was "fully costed and involves no new expenditure to the Executive Budget". "It is value for the taxpayer, ensuring that the businesses who need help with their rates bill the most, receive it," they explained.
Mr Neill additionally stressed that the Assembly must look at a reduction in non-domestic rates for the hospitality sector to help offset the higher rate of Vat here, compared with the 9% rate in the Republic.