Belfast Telegraph

CBI warns against retailer tax plan

Introducing large retailer taxes would damage efforts to encourage investment in Northern Ireland, the CBI has claimed.

The proposal from Finance Minister Sammy Wilson contradicts the Executive's claim that the economy is its top priority, the business lobby group added.

Mr Wilson is consulting on forcing large stores to pay more rates and charging smaller businesses less to counter the decline of the high street and support struggling shop owners.

CBI Northern Ireland chairman Terence Brannigan said: "This is an ill-thought through proposal which will damage our efforts to encourage retail investment in Northern Ireland and is at odds with the Executive's claim of putting the economy as its number one priority.

"This additional tax will make retail investment less attractive than anywhere else in the UK."

The retail sector is already under enormous pressure from weak consumer demand and inflationary pressure.

Mr Brannigan added: "Some retailers are facing sales reductions in double-digits while many operate on business models based on high volume but low profit margins. A 20% increase in their rating bills will create significant uncertainty and undermine business confidence and investment decisions within a key part of our economy."

The CBI's submission said the proposal could undermine the benefit of reducing the rate of corporation tax.

The business group is also concerned that the measure would mean a major extra costs for large retailers at a time of unprecedented pressure on the retail sector and reduce investment and employment prospects.

It also believes the tax would undermine city-centre regeneration, as only 38% of properties affected are out-of-town developments, and make investment in Northern Ireland retail much less attractive than elsewhere in the UK.

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