Belfast Telegraph

We could get the power to set our own rates of tax

Welsh plan paves the way for change

By Tony Grew and Rebecca Black

Northern Ireland could be handed tax varying powers – if we want them, Secretary of State Theresa Villers has revealed.

During the Budget announcement yesterday Chancellor George Osborne said that Wales will receive some tax powers.

Ms Villiers told the Belfast Telegraph that Westminster is considering handing the same powers to Northern Ireland in future. These will not include corporation tax, but could include stamp duty.

"The kind of powers that will be introduced in Wales were discussed when we were negotiating the Stormont pact last year," she said. "There was a commitment in that pact to look again at these issues to see whether there are tax varying powers that the Executive would want devolved. That work is under way."

Mr Osborne also announced radical changes to the way people can manage their pensions yesteray, and the creation of Northern Ireland's first enterprise zone.

A new data centre will be built near the University of Ulster in Coleraine and investment and capital allowances for plant and machinery investment will be made available until March 2020.

Enterprise zones have already been established in the rest of the UK and have proven successful at clustering high-tech businesses and driving growth.

The annual investment allowance is also being doubled to £500,000 until the end of 2015, increasing the amount of up-front relief businesses can claim. Osborne said he will remove all remaining tax restrictions on how pensioners access their pension pots. People with defined contribution schemes will no longer have to take out an annuity.

The income requirement for flexible drawdown will be cut from £20,000 to £12,000, the size of the lump sum small pot will increase five-fold to £10,000 and the total pension savings taken as a lump sum will rise to £30,000.

Osborne also announced that from July cash and shares Isas will be merged into a single new Isa and the amount that can be saved tax-free will rise to £15,000. The junior Isa limit will be raised to £4,000. The 10p starting rate of tax on income from savings is to be abolished.

The cap on Premium Bonds will be raised to £40,000 in June and £50,000 next year.

There will also be a new Pensioner Bond paying market-leading rates, open to everyone aged 65 or over, available from January next year.

The personal tax allowance – the amount you can earn before you pay income tax – will rise by £500 to £10,500.

Duty on beer will be cut by 1p a pint, while duty on spirits and 'ordinary' cider will be frozen.

The film tax credit, which has helped attract producers to Northern Ireland, will be extended and there will be similar incentives for regional theatre, with a 25% tax relief for regional tours.

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