Belfast Telegraph

Next step on corporation tax up to our politicians

By Jamie Stinson

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton called on businesses who have campaigned for years for a cut in corporation tax to "not lose heart" that devolution of the powers now rests in the hands of the Stormont parties.

The Chancellor's mention of the corporation tax debate was his only reference to Northern Ireland during yesterday's Autumn Statement - his last before next year's General Election.

He made implementing a corporation tax cut conditional on the success of the present talks involving the parties - and on the parties showing they can handle the financial implications of cutting corporation tax.

Mr Hamilton said while the announcement in Chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement on devolved corporation tax is "positive" news, the stipulations are "disappointing".

The DUP minister said: "It's disappointing it isn't a final decision, in that it's not affirmative decision to devolve these powers."

Mr Hamilton said he asked Northern Ireland businesses to be patient while politicians try to resolve the issues.

"We have worked hand and glove with the business community to make the compelling case that has been accepted by the Chancellor.

"It is now important those members of the business community, and indeed others who support powers being devolved don't lose heart but actually encourage parties who are not showing leadership around welfare reform and budget issues, to get on with it, to ensure progress is made on those issues and that we don't lose this opportunity to transform our economy in a positive way."

Aside from corporation tax, other provisions in the statement were interpreted as shoring up Conservative support ahead of next year's election. House hunters were given a boost, with the Chancellor reforming stamp duty, the tax on buying a property.

Under the new rules, there will no tax to be paid on homes under £125,000, then 2% up to £250,000, 5% to £925,000, 10% to £1.5m, and 12% above that.

Buyers of properties worth £275,000 will save £4,500 under the changes, with only those who purchase homes in excess of £937,000 paying more.

Mr Hamilton said the cuts to stamp duty will help the "sluggish" property market in Northern Ireland. "I think it has the potential to stimulate the market. Stamp duty has created a distortion sometimes in the market, so now playing anything above that level (£125,000) has the potential to stimulate and move our property market, which is showing signs of moving, but is sluggish."

Gerry O'Connor, director of GOC estate agents, said: "It's going to encourage that lower and middle end of the market. In a property around £250,000 you could be paying half of what you were paying before."

While demand in the property market may increase, he said it was unlikely prices will rise to the levels there were before the crash, Mr O'Connor added. "People are now being very careful, with the mortgage restrictions the market is much more conservative."

The Chancellor also announced that air passenger duty (APD) will be scrapped for children under 12 by May 2015, with parents able to claim tax they have already paid for on flights after next May. From March 2016, APD will also be axed for those under 16.

Mr Hamilton welcomed the cuts but said the tax should in fact be eradicated.

Belfast Telegraph