'Tesco tax' on large NI retailers to go ahead

Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson said that small businesses needed help during the downturn

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Northern Ireland Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has said that a levy on large stores is to go ahead but at a reduced rate.

The so-called "Tesco tax" has been fiercely opposed by large retailers who said it could limit investment and cost jobs.

On average big retailers will pay an extra charge of £66,000 a year, raising £5m.

This will be used to fund a rate cut for small shops.

The levy will be at a rate of 15%, not 20% as originally planned.

It will affect 76 large shops.

Under the plans, a shop the size of the Belfast Ikea store could pay an extra £250,000 a year in rates.

Jane Bevis from the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC), which represents the large stores including Boots and Tesco said it was inevitable that the additional costs would fall on the public.

"Unfortunately by making Northern Ireland a less profitable place to do business, the costs are going to fall on ordinary people who would like to work for the large multiple retailers," she said.

"30,000 people currently work as NIRC members across NI and unfortunately the hopes and ambitions of others are likely to be thwarted."

Ikea had previously said that the shop was under pressure and made a "substantial" loss in the last year.

Businesses with more than three branches will not qualify for the rate cut - which means bookmakers' chains and bank branches will be excluded from the lower rates benefit.

Support

Mr Wilson said that small businesses needed particular help in the economic downturn.

"The money raised through the levy will be used to provide much needed additional support to small businesses, which continue to struggle during these difficult economic times," he said.

"20% relief will be provided to those businesses with a net annual value of £5,001 to £10,000, with around £6m likely to be awarded in 2012/13."

The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) welcomed the small business rate relief scheme.

NIIRTA Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: "While this scheme is not a silver bullet for problems facing small traders, it is an important initiative which will be widely welcomed."

"This is a good day for devolution and the Executive because it shows that having locally accountable ministers can make a real difference"

The scheme will be time-limited in legislation to three years, until 31 March 2015.

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