Corporate tax decision still not set for take-off

The case for lowering corporation tax in Northern Ireland is still in the hands of the Prime Minister, according to one campaigner.

The First Minister and Deputy First Minister are due to meet David Cameron to discuss the rate within weeks, but Eamon Donaghy said that “there is no further case to make or any more studies to carry out”.

Mr Donaghy, head of tax at the Belfast branch of global accountancy firm KPMG Belfast and spokesperson for corporation tax lobby group GROW NI, repeated claims that the issue is being delayed because of fears over whether Scotland would call for a similar devolution of tax-setting powers.

Campaigners want the rate here to be lowered to match that of the Republic of Ireland at 12.5%, to boost inward investment, company incorporation and job creation.

Mr Donaghy said that the business community and politicians in favour of the move are now facing the last hurdle.

“The responses to the Treasury consultation paper on rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy have been submitted and reported on,” he said.

“The Joint Ministerial Working Group that was set up last year has now issued its final agreed report to the Prime Minister.

“The last leg in this odyssey will take place at 10 Downing Street. So now it is ‘show time’. The final decision on whether the Northern Ireland Assembly will be granted the power to vary corporation tax rests with the Prime Minister.

“It is clear the Prime Minister’s decision is clearly made more difficult by matters in Scotland.

“Having said that, irrespective of what Mr Cameron decides, it is clear that Alex Salmond will try and make political capital out of that decision.

“If the answer from No 10 is yes, Mr Salmond will immediately seek similar powers in Scotland.”

Meanwhile, the Institute of Directors in Northern Ireland has warned Westminster officials not to use Scotland as an excuse for failing to devolve corporation tax powers.