West Bend, WI. WAL-MART FILES MULTIPLE LAWSUITS TO LOWER ITS PROPERTY TAXES
America’s largest retailer,owned by American’s richest family, is filing a flurry of lawsuits against cities and small towns in Wisconsin, seeking to pay these communities less in property taxes.
Wal-Mart is using the “dark store” theory to try to lower what it pays towns in property taxes. In West Bend,Wisconsin, for example, Wal-Mart is arguing that its store is worth no more than $10.2 million, while the town’s assessors have it valued at $12.5 million.
A number of big box stores in Wisconsin, including Wal-Mart, are arguing that their locations should be assessed as if they were vacant, dark stores, and not based on their sales levels.
Assessors argue that empty stores are assessed at a lower price because they are not worth as much if standing vacant with no sales, compared to one that is open and doing business. The dead store has little monetary value, because it is not generating sales. West Bend Assessor say a bustling store with millions in sales monthly it is not comparable to one that is empty.
West Bend assessors estimated that if these big box retailers win their cases, the city could lose more than $400,000—while these stores keep draining town resources to pay for police and fire protection for their premises.
A Wal-Mart tax lawyer told the media: “The bottom line is that the reason Wal-Mart is appealing is because they have sold 125 stores nationwide, and the average sale price is approximately $22 per square foot.”
But what they sell a dead store for, versus what a store is worth when it is going full tilt have nothing to do with one another.
In addition to West Bend, Wal-Mart has also filed two other lawsuits in Waukesha County, Wisconsin Circuit Court this week, challenging the property tax assessments levied by two small towns where it has stores.
In the Mukwonago, Wisconsin suit, Wal-Mart says the village set fair market value of their store at $14.64 million. The company says the store’s assessment should be $9.25 million. In the Muskego, Wisconsin suit, Wal-Mart said the city set its property at $11.34 million, but the retailer says its worth $7.82 million. These small communities do not have legal deep pockets, and fighting a big corporation in court is an expensive bill to pass onto public taxpayers.
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