The Antrim Councillor said: “These proposals would be very beneficial to the people of Northern Ireland, where the average wage is below that of the UK. The Liberal Democrats have shown how tax can be better linked to the ability to pay and at the same time encourage care for the environment, with the costs of pollution being paid for by the polluter.
“Their proposals would abolish the 10p rate of tax, so earnings below £7,185 would not be taxed at all. However, this level of earnings is still below the minimum wage, which in my opinion should be the starting level for tax. They also propose to stop penalising those only just within the 40% tax bracket by raising the threshold to £50,000, and most significant of all they will reduce the basic rate by 2% to 20%.
“These reforms will cost money, and to raise the shortfall they are proposing a series of taxes designed to encourage environmental protection. Since Gordon Brown backed down from raising fuel duty in 1999, the amount of green tax raised has fallen by about £8 billion. The Lib Dems would raise this £8 billion by increasing vehicle excise duty on new vehicles, increasing fuel tax, taxing Aircraft emissions and abolishing passenger tax. The airline industry has escaped its share of green taxes up to now, and this is an innovative solution.
“The Liberal Democrats, like the Alliance Party, have also been long-term advocates of a local income tax for local services, as it directly relates to ability to pay. Indeed, they see the reduction in the basic rate of tax as a way of helping the transition to a local income tax.
“On the business front, they have recognised that many new small businesses fail because of cash flow problems precipitated by VAT or tax bills, so they are proposing that businesses have the option to be taxed on their cash flow. This could greatly boost the business sector if implemented in Northern Ireland. They also propose some changes to business rates, offering relief to small firms.
Alan Lawther concluded: “These proposals have much to recommend them and I believe that they would greatly benefit both businesses and the general public in Northern Ireland.”