The proposed extra tax on large retail properties in Northern Ireland could limit retail expansion and harm employment prospects, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) warned.
The proposal outlined in the Northern Ireland Budget Executive Statement aims to subsidise extra rates relief for smaller businesses by applying a levy to large retail properties.
But the BRC said the proposal could stunt the development of the retail sector in the country.
Director general Stephen Robertson said: “Retailers are planning growth across the UK, investing in town centres and employing an increasing number of people. It would be terrible to see Northern Ireland miss out on that growth as a result of the Northern Ireland Executive pursuing a policy which could make the country a less welcoming place to do business.”
Robertson also warned the measure could have a negative effect on the small businesses it is designed to benefit. He said: “By making investment less attractive for larger businesses could damage the very shopping areas some smaller companies depend on for their own customers, and hit tourist appeal. This would be self-defeating.”
The Northern Ireland Executive has said there will be a consultation on the issue before any final decision is made.
The proposed tax increase will take place from April 2012 should it be approved.