Belfast Telegraph

Business tax consultation extended

The public consultation on devolving corporation tax powers to Northern Ireland has been extended, enabling more people to register their views on the move.

Enterprise minister Arlene Foster encouraged business leaders and members of the public to engage in the exercise.

The UK Government has not yet signalled whether it will hand tax varying powers to Stormont and on his visit to Belfast last week Prime Minister David Cameron stressed the importance of the Treasury consultation showing strong community support.

It opened in March and was set to end next week but has been extended to July 1.

Businesses have backed the move to cut the rate from 26% to something closer to the 12.5% in the Republic of Ireland, amid claims it would generate 4,500 new jobs a year.

But others, including unions, are opposed as it could only be delivered with an accompanying cut to public funding, as much as £400 million, from the Treasury.

Mrs Foster, answering Assembly questions on behalf of finance minister Sammy Wilson as he attended the funeral of his late Dublin counterpart Brian Lenihan, said the balance of facts indicated that lowering the tax would be beneficial.

"I don't have any doubt and I think most of the commentators in the business world don't have any doubt that reducing the rate of corporation tax here in Northern Ireland would have a significant benefit to the economy," she said.

"The question then comes around, is that benefit greater than the cost that it would bring to the block grant, and looking at certainly the independent evidence - and I think it's important to say that it is independent evidence - that I have before me in my own department, I very much believe that the lowering of corporation tax would be of huge benefit to us here in Northern Ireland.

"It would bring in more foreign direct investment, it would bring many more jobs into the economy and my economic advisory group have indicated up to as many as 4,500 new jobs every year."

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