Northern Ireland

Finance Minister 'surprised' at big stores reaction to 'Tesco tax'

Sammy Wilson
Image caption Mr Wilson said he was surprised at large stores' reaction to his next tax

Northern Ireland Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has said he is surprised at the reaction of some of the large stores to his so-called "Tesco tax".

Swedish furniture giant Ikea claimed the minister had potentially put hundreds of jobs at risk and was hindering other stores coming to NI.

But Mr Wilson said he had listened to what the big retailers had to say and had cut the tax they would have to pay.

"The levy has been reduced from 20% to 15% saving Ikea £70,000," he said.

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. It will affect 76 large shops.

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

The finance minister argued that the "Tesco tax" put Northern Ireland ahead in terms of helping small businesses.

"The whole aim is to create a more even playing field. It is about what we do to stimulate the small business end of the economy," he said.

'Even field'

"If you look at the Mary Portas report on high street shops this week, many of the proposals she has put into the public arena, we have in this package of measures. We are probably ahead of the game here."

Mr Wilson said small businesses had welcomed the reduction in their rates. He argued that it was about "creating a level playing field".

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

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.

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

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