Proposals to allow smaller stores in Northern Ireland pay less business rates have been welcomed by retailers.

Finance minister Sammy Wilson has launched a consultation to “rebalance the business rates scheme” that could mean savings of up to £750 a year for some small businesses.

He aims to extend the criteria for business rates relief for stores with a rateable value of up to £10,000.

The proposals would also mean that larger stores, with a rateable value of over £500,000, would have to pay an additional business rate levy. If introduced, they would be implemented from April 2012 until March 2015.

Wilson said that the proposals would help smaller stores that may have suffered during the recession. “The downturn has been very difficult for most sectors of the economy but some have fared better than others during this period,” he said. “I think it is right that additional small businesses get help and this should be funded by asking the largest retailers to pay more.”

Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association chief executive Glyn Roberts welcomed the proposals.

“These are excellent proposals which will be welcomed by independent retailers and small business owners in every part of Northern Ireland,” he said. “We urge every small business owner to respond positively to this consultation.”

He added that it would create a balance for all businesses. “This scheme is of vital importance to thousands of small businesses and independent retailers who are struggling to pay their rates bills,” added Roberts. “The proposed Large Store Levy is about creating a level playing field and it is time for the big multiples to start paying their way in relation to business rates.”

Retailers who wish to make a submission to the consultation, can do so at
Deadline for submissions is 18 October.