Business Rate Review - Consultation
As part of a Business Rates Review, the Department has recently completed a consultation exercise on the future direction of the system within Northern Ireland. The eight week consultation period was launched on 16 September. The consultation period closed on 11 November. The Department is currently analysing the responses to this exercise.
The Review is of strategic importance for government to ensure that the business rating system is fit for purpose in order to fund Northern Ireland’s key services, both at regional and district level. The system, together with the suite of support measures, needs to be positioned to respond to changing marketplaces and local economic conditions, and should align with wider government strategy to promote economic growth right across Northern Ireland.
It will evaluate the current position and make recommendations as to how the business rates system can be effective and fair, while still ensuring that overall, the same amount of revenue is available.
Review of Rating System - Innovation Lab
In May, the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Finance announced her intention to initiate a fresh appraisal of the fundamental features of the rating system in Northern Ireland.
The first step towards that appraisal process will be an Innovation Lab process at the start of July. This Lab (undertaken alongside the other Departments) will assess and respond to the significant changes that have taken place in relation to Northern Ireland high streets and town centres. The Lab event will gather leading experts in the field of urban regeneration, taxation and the high street.
The Lab process will serve to guide the strategic direction of a subsequent fundamental appraisal process for the rating system conducted by the Department of Finance. The process of stakeholder engagement will see any interested parties engage with the Department of Finance’s Rating Policy Division in order to inform its policy appraisal work in this area. Any stakeholders interested in this process can register their interest now by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The outcome of both the cross-Departmental Innovation Lab and the subsequent stakeholder engagement and appraisal of rating will put the Department in the best position to provide up to date and relevant advice to any incoming Finance Minister, and to input into the direction of any future Executive’s Programme for Government.
Northern Ireland Budgetary Outlook 2018-19
The Department has published the impact assessment work undertaken as part of the Budgetary Outlook paper.
Rates Bills 2018-19
On Wednesday 28 March 2018 the Northern Ireland (Regional Rates and Energy) Bill gained Royal Assent following its passage through Westminster. The Bill sets the amounts of the regional domestic and non-domestic rates for the financial year ending on 31 March 2019. The Bill implements an increase in the domestic regional rate of 4.5 per cent. The non-domestic rates increase by 1.5 per cent, in line with inflation.
In her statement on 8 March 2018 the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland also confirmed that the budget settlement for 2018-19 would provide the basis for the Small Business Rate Relief to continue. The legislation extending the scheme for 2018-19 has now been made by the Department of Finance and comes into operation on 1 April 2018.
In September 2017, the new rate rebate scheme for working age claimants awarded Universal Credit, who can no longer avail of Housing Benefit was introduced. This policy was previously agreed by Executive Ministers, following three consultations. The regulations for the new rate rebate scheme were made on 11 September 2017 and came into operation from 27 September 2017.
Universal Credit (UC) replaces housing benefit for rent only therefore a localised scheme for help with rates in Northern Ireland had to be devised. The new scheme will gradually replace housing benefit for rates in tandem with the introduction of universal credit by geographical area.
The new scheme is therefore only available in areas where UC has been introduced and you must qualify for UC to be entitled to rate rebate. Rates support for those not eligible to claim UC will continue to be provided through the social security system by housing benefit.
The local low income rate relief scheme, which is a top up of housing benefit, will also be phased out alongside housing benefit for rates.
Details on how to claim can be found on nidirect.