The Department of Finance has announced a review of the non-domestic rating system in Northern Ireland. Launching the review, Sue Gray Permanent Secretary at the Department of Finance said:
“In recent years significant changes have taken place in our high streets and town centres. It is critical from a business perspective, as well as a government funding perspective, that our rating system is capable of responding to this wider process of change. That’s why today I am announcing a full and comprehensive review of business rates.
“We must create a rating system which generates the funding our public services need while supporting businesses in all sector and enabling economic growth right across Northern Ireland.
“In an environment where we are working without Ministers there are limitations to what we can do by way of policy change. But we need to be ready with updated advice for incoming Ministers for their return to office. This fundamental review is therefore a critical part of this process.”
The first step will be an Innovation Lab process at the start of July. This Lab (undertaken alongside the other Departments) will assess and respond to the significant changes that have taken place in relation to Northern Ireland high streets and town centres. The Lab event will gather leading experts in the field of urban regeneration, taxation and the high street.
The Lab process will serve to guide the strategic direction of a subsequent fundamental appraisal process for the rating system conducted by the Department of Finance. The process of stakeholder engagement will see any interested parties engage with the Department of Finance’s Rating Policy Division in order to inform its policy appraisal work in this area. Any stakeholders interested in this process can register their interest now by e-mailing [email protected]
The outcome of both the cross-Departmental Innovation Lab and the subsequent stakeholder engagement and appraisal of rating will put the Department in the best position to provide up to date and relevant advice to any incoming Finance Minister, and to input into the direction of any future Executive’s Programme for Government.
There have been a number of consultations in recent years on rates relief in Northern Ireland with the charity exemption facing scrutiny, but remaining unchanged following opposition from charities. See below for more background: