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Non-Domestic Rates, can we do better?

After a period of speculation the Department of Finance has announced a major review of the Northern Ireland Non-Domestic Rates System.

Many businesses and associations have commented that the current rating system is not sustainable and hinders businesses investing or setting up in Northern Ireland. With the increase in charity shops on many highstreets, empty spaces and reduced retail offering it will be interesting to see what proposals are being put forward to protect and improve our local highstreets and businesses. 

In June 2016 following a 2015 consultation on the rates system in Northern Ireland the Department of Finance stated “the outcome of that consultation was that there were no clear or practical ideas for a replacement for rates. Nobody likes rates, but they are essential to raise money…. However the consultation found a lot of shortcomings in the rating system”.

Due to the Stormont Deadlock the findings of the 2015 consultation where not implemented. Looking back at the outcome of the 2015 review it was said that:

  1. charity shops would no longer get full relief from rates and would have to contribute something (likely 10 or 20%);
  2. the small business rates relief scheme introduced in 2010 was due to be re-invented and focused on retail and hospitality businesses, as while popular it was not seen to be creating jobs;
  3. the introduction of “Business Empowerment Zones” to encourage investment; and
  4. removing an initial exemption period and reducing the discount available on empty commercial property to encourage regeneration and redevelopment.

We can only wait and see what is proposed in this new review but what is generally accepted is that we need a rating system which helps our local business and makes Northern Ireland more attractive to external investment.

If you are a commercial property landlord or a looking to take a new commercial lease come speak to one of our expert commercial property solicitors, we cover the whole of Northern Ireland with offices in Belfast and Bangor.

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