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Tax on thriving stores could leave us short-changed

There is a lot of talk about cutting corporation tax to attract big business to Northern Ireland, but the only tax-change to actually happen penalises large stores.

Ian Coulter, of the Confederation of British Industry, has wondered aloud what sort of message that will send to investors. Sammy Wilson, the Finance Minister, is confident that the 76 largest stores can take the hit and that the £5m raised will help keep small stores open through the recession.

With 1,000 shops closing in the past year alone, we can only hope his calculations are correct, for, on the face of it, he is taxing successful business models to subsidise failing ones.

If a store like Ikea or B-amp;Q pulls out, it could argue that it was welcomed here with all sorts of promises, but once established, it was hit with higher taxes for being successful.

It would take a lot of explaining for Invest Northern Ireland to talk itself round that one.

There are other ways to help revitalise our town centres. We could, for instance, use the rates system to penalise owners of boarded-up properties, instead of thriving stores where people clearly prefer to shop.

Parking could also be improved to make town-centre shopping more convenient.

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That way, big successful firms would be encouraged into town centres - not tempted to leave our shores altogether.