Belfast Telegraph

Public consultation over business rates is welcomed by retail leaders

By Mark McConville

A public consultation on business rates in Northern Ireland has been launched by the Department of Finance.

The review will look at the current position and make recommendations to "ensure that the business rates system is effective and fair" while raising funds to support key services.

And the business rates review team will be attending a series of events organised by councils, chambers of commerce and other organisations across Northern Ireland as part of the public consultation process which runs until November 11.

The move was welcomed by Retail NI chief executive Glynn Roberts, who hoped it would "deliver the step change needed to fix the current broken and antiquated system".

He added: "Fixing business rates is Retail NI's top priority, given that our members pay the highest rates in the UK.

"Retail NI wants to see the targeted approach to small business rate relief. These proposals include enhanced rates relief for the mainstays of the high street-independent retail and hospitality businesses.

"In our joint Trade NI Vision 2030 report published last week we outlined new ideas for reform to business rates which includes incentives for business growth.

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"We outlined proposals for a green rate relief scheme to incentivise businesses to invest in green technology, enhancing the current empty premises rate relief scheme, a capital allowance scheme and making it easier to access the rates hardship scheme."

Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said the current system is "not fit for purpose".

He added: "Reform cannot be piecemeal. It must get to the root of the problem by widening the tax base, providing an equity in distribution and auditing the plethora of exemptions we have, some dating from the 1930s."

FSB NI head of external affairs, Roger Pollen, said rates policy must deliver for all small businesses.

Belfast Telegraph