Belfast Telegraph

Tax cut 'would be huge boost'

Corporation levy move will transform economy overnight: CBI

By Margaret Canning

Cutting Northern Ireland's rate of corporation tax will change our economy for the better "overnight," a leading lobby group has said.

The Treasury will say this summer if it will permit Northern Ireland to set its own rate of corporation tax. Currently big companies here share the 24% rate of the rest of the UK though that will fall to 22% by 2014.

Ian Coulter, chairman of the CBI in Northern Ireland, which has campaigned for a cut in the business tax, said: "This is the most important period in Northern Ireland's development since the Good Friday Agreement.

"If we can get this it will change the economy overnight."

He said details of how a cut would be implemented and applied to businesses was discussed during a meeting with high-ranking Treasury officials last month.

Mr Coulter said that a nod from the Treasury this summer would give enough time for the requisite law to be passed in the 2014 Finance Bill. "All we need to know is that it's coming," Mr Coulter said.

The cost to Treasury coffers of lower tax revenues would be made up in a cut to the block grant.

Mr Coulter said that claims this sum could be up to £400m were "scaremongering". The cost would be closer to £200m, he suggested.

Cutting the rate was not intended as an aid to wealth generation, he said.

"It's two things: jobs and quality of life across the board, not just the middle class. This is going to be the best thing you can get for the Northern Ireland economy."

The CBI will hold a reception in Westminster next week intended to show the support of business leaders, MLAs and MPs for cutting the rate. Supporters argue that the tax should be cut to around the Republic's 12.5% rate.

Opponents argue that it would encourage 'brass-plating' by companies setting up only nominal operations here.