Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Can we ever make the cut in tax world's Ryder Cup?

W hat a 24 hours. I don't think I've ever looked forward to putting fingers to a grubby keyboard more than I have for this column, such has been the excitement following a couple of frankly quite shocking revelations. Both relate to corporation tax.

Firstly The Financial Times decides to throw its not inconsiderable weight behind the debate over devolving corporation tax powers. While this column is, literally, minding its business pondering the varying degrees of economic malaise around the globe, one of the leaders in the pink pages rounds on our own battle for a more level playing field for large business tax with our nearest neighbours.

Their subhead sums it up nicely: "Corporation tax-setting powers for UK regions is a bad idea". It believes the complications thrown up by devolving corporation tax powers are a heavy price to pay for a reform that it reckons will only produce marginal benefits. It finishes by telling George Osborne to inform both Northern Ireland and Scotland to go back to the drawing board.

Reeling from this revelation, I had to take myself off home for a sit down. It was here that I happened to be flicking through the TV channels when I came across another media bastion of the financial world, CNBC. I've always had an interest in the goings on at the former Consumer News and Business channel but yesterday piqued my interest more than normal.

Firstly, Maria Bartiromo - otherwise known as The Money Honey from her time reporting from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange - wasn't in a studio but was at a golf club in the US. Her interviewee was professional golfer Phil Mickelson. Maria asked him what he was hearing about the economy from the business leaders who had been playing 18 holes alongside him and he said it was all about jobs. He added that 47% of jobs in the US are in the public sector and the balance needed to be addressed.

Sound familiar? It soon will.

He said the business leaders of some of the world's biggest firms reckon that the best way to boost the US private sector is to cut its corporation tax rate which stands at 35%.

Blimey. It seems the very economy from which we're trying to secure inward investment believes corporation tax is such a big issue that its key players want a reduction. And Mickelson knows his economic onions.

It's obvious what we need to do. Get Darren, Rory and Graham on the corporation tax reduction campaign trail before the US beats us to it. Think of it as the Ryder Cup of the tax world. If we win Sammy Wilson gets to wear the green jacket and that really would be worth the cut in the block grant.

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