Department of Finance pledges consultation and review of business rates

Wed, 02/10/2019 - 02:13 -- Editor

SDLP Councillor and former Chief Executive of the Chamber of Commerce, Sinead McLaughlin has welcomed the Department for Finance’s Review on Business Rates at this evening’s meeting of Derry City and Strabane District’s Council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee. 

The Waterside Cllr commented: “The SDLP welcome the current review of this outdated system. The business rates system has – over time – become uneconomical, unsustainable, and frankly, unintelligible. It is really not fit for purpose in a modern economy. 

“Business rates are higher in Northern Ireland than in the rest of the UK and the ROI, putting pressure especially on our smaller businesses. We want small firms to benefit from a fairer, more flexible system that doesn’t discourage growth and investment. The current rates system is unfair and not related to the ability to pay, or indeed the changing economic circumstances. 

“In my previous role as Chief Executive of the Chamber of Commerce here in the City, I spent many years calling for the business rates system to be radically reformed as I saw first-hand the difficulties small businesses experienced due to this complicated and regressive system. Whilst I appreciate that some improvements had been made in the form of the small business rate relief, unfortunately I am also aware of quite a large number of businesses that went under as a direct result of the prohibitive and inflexible nature of this taxation. One has only to look at the Diamond, the heart of our City Centre, to see the impact of a regressive business taxation system can have on the vibrancy and vitality of City Centres. 

“The tax system, at the moment favours big online companies over independent businesses based in the heart of our communities. We need a system that levels the playing field importance of widening the tax base, spreading the burden more evenly and reviewing reliefs and exemptions. 

“Small businesses should not be burdened by an expensive, inflexible and unfair tax system. A small business in our City Centre is hit by business rates before it makes its first £1 in turnover, let alone profit. These small firms are the lifeblood of our City, our town centres by providing jobs, bespoke products and a personal service. Yet, despite being key to the success of a town centre, confidence is rock bottom and some are finding it too difficult to stay afloat. 

“We welcome this consultation as the next step in building the sort of modern tax system that balances the need to fund public services with protecting and growing our small business community. The SDLP are committed to working with Government, local authorities and businesses to look at real solutions to these issues so that we can breathe new life into our town centres.”