Belfast Telegraph

Economy needs boost of devolved tax powers

Tax does funny things to people. Some go to huge lengths to try to avoid paying it while others will go to huge lengths to try and influence policy on it.

It's the latter point which brought 60 of our finest business people and politicians to the hot and sticky environs of London yesterday and despite the clammy conditions, it seems they've set out their stall with vitriolic intent. If the Chancellor was in any doubt about the seriousness of the campaign by the majority of Northern Ireland's business people here to have the powers to set corporation tax devolved to Stormont then he need only have looked out his office window yesterday.

That such a large gathering of such busy people was possible is down to the business organisations which planned the event and betrays the amount of goodwill behind such a move. Granted it's not without its detractors, not least those who see it as a windfall for business fat cats and of no benefit to the man or woman on the street.

But if our businesses aren't given some sort of leg up to compete on a level playing field with our nearest neighbours, then big, medium and small business won't have the capacity to employ the 'ordinary' person.

And worries over the expected reduction to the block grant shouldn't be holding us back because calculations by corporation-tax-reduction evangelist Eamonn Donaghey and his ilk reckon that this will be more than made up for by the boost to tax receipts from the inward investors which would be tempted to these shores if the tax rate is cut.

It's true that corporation tax isn't the be-all and end-all when a major inward investor in deciding where to set up a European base but it does go a long way to helping swing their decision.

Learned people 'close to the situation', as we say in this game, reckon there'll be a decision from the Treasury by mid-summer and let's hope that proves correct.

Latest data shows many businesses here are still struggling and devolving the power to set corporation tax - while not a panacea - will certainly help build us back up to be an economic powerhouse to be reckoned with.

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