Hospitality and retail bodies want radical rates overhaul

Pictured, from left Colin Neill, Hopsitaly Ulster, finance minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and Glyn Roberts, NIIRTA

TWO of Northern Ireland's best known business organisations have come up with what they are calling a radically reform to business rates.

Hospitality Ulster and the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) have presented their plans, which they said could help alleviate high street dereliction, to the finance minister.

They are proposing a tiered system which would relive businesses in some cases by 100 per cent depending on their net annual value (NAV).

In a joint statement, Hopsitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neil and head of NIIRTA Glyn Roberts said they were submitting "a radical alternative to the current system of small business rate relief which will be targeted to the independent retail and hospitality sectors".

"Both sectors make a huge contribution to our local economy, town centres and tourism," they said.

“Our members consistently tell us that their rates bill is a significant financial burden on their businesses, restricting growth and on occasions forcing them to close.”

They added: "Given that Northern Ireland has nearly twice the UK's national average of levels of high street dereliction, we believe our rates plan will address this problem and begin to reverse this decline.”

The tiered system of reliefs suggested by the two bodies would see 100 per cent relief for those business with an NAV below £10,000.

The would be 50 per cent relief for companies with NAV between £10,000 and £15,000 and 25 per cent for the £10,000 to £25,000 NAV bracket.

“The total cost of this relief would be £36 million, which would mean that an additional £18m is needed above the £18m that it currently costs to provide small business rate relief," they said.

“In order to fund this additional £18m we recommend that the vacant property relief after three months should be reduced from its current 50 per cent to 15 per cent.

“Our scheme is fully costed and involves no new expenditure to the NI Executive Budget. It is value for the taxpayer, ensuring that the businesses who need help with their rates bill the most, receive it.

“Directly assisting our independent retail and hospitality sectors is in line with existing rates relief for manufacturing, agriculture and charity shops. Not only will our rates relief scheme be beneficial for many existing independent retail and hospitality businesses, but potentially assist new start businesses in our sectors with a substantial rates reduction helping reduce their startup costs."

Mr Neill and Mr Roberts said they believed the system could be up and running by April next year, if adopted.

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