Corporation Tax A ‘Golden Opportunity Not To Be Missed’

Politicians were urged yesterday “don’t disappoint investors by letting corporation tax go”. Brian Keegan, director of taxation at Chartered Accountants Ireland, told 300 delegates at a breakfast business in Newry that handing fiscal powers to Stormont was “now firmly in the hands of local MLAs”.

“And it would be unforgivable for this generation and the next to let this golden opportunity slip from our grasp,” he told the PKF-FPM/Irish News post-budget breakfast in the Quays.

The Corporation Tax (NI) Bill went through the House of Lords on March 17, so perhaps we should make St Patrick our patron saint of taxes.

“If the bill meets the main criteria, which is the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement, it means Northern Ireland can have an enormous advantage over practically every other territory in Europe.

“But the ultimate decision is no longer in the hands of Westminster, but of local politicians, many of whom are influential here in Newry and Mourne.

“We need to be saying to every MLAs: ‘this isn’t just another bill, but something of fundamental importance to all our future wealth’.”

Mr Keegan told the gathering of politicians and business people that the passing of the bill, albeit still subject to Royal Assent, is already enough to start the pipeline of projects coming through.

“The fact that it’s on the statute books is, I understand, already making some investors think of choosing Northern Ireland as a possible location for entry into Europe – so what we really need to do now is not disappoint them,” he said.

PKF-FPM managing partner Feargal McCormack said of corporation tax: “If we’re going to create wealth and excitement for the next generation, then there’s no alternative. Nothing has the potential to be as important. It’s a game-changer.”

He added: “Just contemplate the dire implications if it doesn’t happen – in 10 years’ time we would still have 70 per cent of our economy dependent on the public sector and the lowest wages in the UK.

“The alternative is that we could attract some of the best businesses in the world, paying the very best salaries, and we will create clusters of expertise which will ultimately set standards for the transfer of knowledge and the spinning-out of many indigenous businesses.

“I can honestly say that everyone in Northern Ireland will benefit long term from a lower corporation tax, because wealth creation creates the money to build more hospitals, more schools and more roads. Having our own tax regime will make the difference in a multinational coming here or going elsewhere.”

The PKF-FPM breakfast also heard from two of the Newry-based practice’s key directors, Paddy Harty and Malachy McLernon, who took delegates through the maze of personal and corporate implications from last week’s UK budget.

The duo currently hold positions of chair of the NI Tax Committee of Chartered Accountants Ireland and chair of the NI branch of the Chartered Institute of Taxation respectively – unique in that both are from the same practice outwith any of the big four accountancy firms.