Levy on out-of-town stores welcomed
Budget proposals to impose a levy on out-of-town shopping developments to boost small businesses have been welcomed by Northern Ireland independent traders.
The Department for Finance and Personnel will bring forward proposals to extend the small business rate relief scheme, meaning more companies could qualify.
Finance Minister Sammy Wilson would subsidise this through a levy on large retailers like major out-of-town shopping developments.
Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association chief executive Glyn Roberts said: "Out-of-town retail stores enjoy a significant competitive advantage over town centre retailers with free car parking and improved transport infrastructure. In addition, they are paying comparatively less rates than town centre retailers.
"Let us not forget that the UK multiple supermarkets have been largely unaffected by the recession and continue to make billions in profit every year.
"This policy is an important step toward a level playing field between out-of-town and town centre retailers and will encourage retailers to locate their stores in town centres if they want to avoid paying more rates."
At present, around 16,000 small businesses receive a reduction in their rates bill. If the proposal goes ahead, many more could benefit, based on their rateable value.
Mr Wilson said: "I will be looking to cross-subsidise this by applying a levy to large retail properties, including major out-of-town shopping developments which have not fared too badly during this downturn compared to our smaller businesses."
Details of the plan have yet to be decided upon.