Sinn Féin preferred rates alternative is local income tax
Sinn Féin Chairperson of the Assembly Finance and Personnel Committee, South Antrim MLA Mitchel McLaughlin has said that Sinn Féin's preferred option is for the removal of rates altogether and their replacement with a system of progressive direct taxation or income tax.
Mr McLaughlin said:
"Sinn Féin's preferred option is for the removal of rates altogether and their replacement with a system of progressive direct taxation or income tax. But that is work in progress and an issue that we will continue to pursue with the Exchequer.
"In the meantime equality and ability to pay must be at the heart of any system of rates. The rates system must also be made transparent and fair, with a clear relationship between rates, revenue, value for money and quality of services provided.
"We believe that the whole rating system in the Six Counties is in urgent need of a radical overhaul in the context of a complete review of the Barnett Formula, and the ongoing negotiations for a meaningful Peace Dividend.
"I would also call on the other parties in this Assembly to support our call for tax varying powers for the Assembly and Executive. This would be a key element in bringing forward policies and measures that reflect local issues, expertise and accountability.
"The current rates proposals introduced by a Direct Rule Minister do not fairly distribute the rates burden.
"Current rates policy does not address the fact that house value in many cases bears no relationship to income and means that many people are in the unenviable position of being 'asset rich but income poor' and consequently are experiencing exceptional hardship through this unfair system of rates valuation.
"In the absence of a progressive tax gathering powers to replace the present system, rates should be assessed through an income-related system based on the ability to pay and with specific exemptions for economically vulnerable groups such as older people, people with disabilities and other low-income households.
"Sinn Féin continues to raise public finance issues including tax varying powers, the Barnett Formula and the legacy costs of many years of neglect and under investment by successive Direct Rule Minsters in the context of a Peace Dividend directly with both the British and Irish governments, and we will continue to do so." ENDS