Cutting North's corporate tax rate to 10pc 'is top priority'
Robinson's plan undercuts 12.5pc levy top firms get here
Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson says cutting Northern Ireland's corporation tax rate to 10pc is his top priority.
Speaking in Dublin yesterday, Mr Robinson said the North needs to be able to offer international companies a tax rate as low, or preferably lower than the Republic's 12.5pc rate. And he would like this to happen by 2013.
"We need some weapons in our arsenal at this stage to attract high-level, high-value jobs to Northern Ireland and lowering corporation tax is important," he said. Mr Robinson is pushing for this to happen before the North loses its ability to give companies financial assistance to establish there in two years' time.
"We know from your experience what a key role a low rate of corporation tax can have on encouraging economic growth. We want to have all possible policy levers available to us. Corporation tax powers potentially offer the (Northern Ireland) Executive a major opportunity to bring about a change in our economic performance" he said.
A low rate of corporation tax may not be the "silver bullet" but it will have an impact on the economy, according to the First Minister.
The Executive will need to sanction the level of corporation tax to be adopted but he would like to see it as low as 10pc. It is possible it could drift lower in stages to ultimately settle at that level, he suggested. "There are a number of ways it could be dealt with", he said, and this will be "perhaps the most important decision" for the Executive.
The consultation with the UK government about devolving this tax to Northern Ireland's politicians ended in July and a working group has been established to move the proposal forward.
"We want to move this work to the next stage as quickly as possible," Mr Robinson said.
It could cost the British Treasury up to £400m (€464m). This amount could be deducted from the annual subvention it pays to Northern Ireland that would affect benefits and other payments.
The Executive also wants to cut the tax paid by passengers on transatlantic flights. Mr Robinson said he would like this tax to be at least as competitive as that offered in Dublin so that it can attract tourists and investment from North America.
Mr Robinson also spoke about Ireland's bad bank and said it has been helpful and co-operative so far.
He and his finance minister, Sammy Wilson, have met with NAMA executives and said the Government has given them commitments there would be no fire sale of Northern Irish assets. "They said they would deal with them responsibly and they have been as good as their word," he said. Ireland's economic woes have impacted on the North's economy but Mr Robinson believes the Government is taking the right measures.
"It's not my place to advise you or your government on how to deal with the economic problems faced here, but I am sure your Government is right in avoiding short-term simplistic solutions," he said.
"They are no substitute for the difficult, long-term measures that are being taken."