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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 November 2007, 11:29 GMT
Developers face extra tax charge
It is thought a derelict land tax would deter so-called land banking
Developers who leave land derelict to avoid rates should face extra taxation, Stormont's Finance Committee has said.

It claims such a move would boost the construction of affordable housing and economic development while raising more taxation.

The committee also recommended that over 75s should be given a discount on their rates bill.

However, it said discounts for people living alone would be "a blunt instrument and open to fraud".

Ray Farley, chairman of the Fair Rates Campaign, said they would have liked to have seen the recommendations going further.

"We would have liked to have seen the single-person's discount," he said. "Automatic relief for pensioners, we would have liked to have seen come in at 65 rather than 75."

The committee's response to the executive's review of the domestic rating system is published on Tuesday.

Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said: "We believe that if a derelict land tax was introduced on that basis it would deter land banking.

"Domestic rates are a key element of local funding and the regional rate, in particular, has increased significantly in recent years.

"The reforms introduced by the direct rule administration in April 2007, particularly the impact on pensioners, have attracted mounting criticism."

Mr McLaughlin added that he was hopeful most of the committee's 33 recommendations would be accepted.

These included re-doubling efforts to improve take-up of rates relief and further consideration of road charging.

Some changes can be made relatively quickly but those like road charging would take longer to introduce.

Mitchel McLaughlin speaking about the changes

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