There’s nothing that says big corporations should have to pay big tax bills. Wal-Mart likes to boast about how much it pays in taxes every year. In Iowa, for example, the company says it paid more than $38.8 million in state and local taxes in the fiscal year ending January 31, 2007. That figure is of little comfort to city officials in Iowa City, Iowa, who must feel pretty put-upon by the giant retailer. According to the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Wal-Mart has been trying to get the city to give them an everyday low property tax bill for months. Wal-Mart appealed the valuation of its building in April. The property was originally assessed by Iowa City in mid-April at $5,711,420, but the company appealed that assessment to the city’s property tax board of review. The city accommodated Wal-Mart, and dropped the assessment to $5,530,070. Wal-Mart appealed again, showing the same kind of pressure it puts on vendors to keep lowering their price. But this second appeal has been filed with the new Iowa Property Assessment Appeal Board. The company wants its store valued rolled back to $3,900,000 — a 32% drop below its April rate. The tax rate in Iowa City is currently $38.83 per $1,000 in valuation, so if Wal-Mart is able to pressure officials to lower its valuation to $3.9 million, the city, county and school district will lose roughly $63,296 — enough to pay for a full-time police officer to patrol Wal-Mart’s parking lot. City officials are not sure what comes next, because the Iowa Property Tax Assessment Appeal Board is new. But the appeal will also run up legal bills for the city, just to defend itself. Wal-Mart will keep the pressure on for lower taxes — always. The world’s biggest retailer will fight a small community over $63,296.
Now city officials will get a chance to see how Wal-Mart vendors feel when the retailer puts the cost squeeze on them. Wal-Mart often gets tough with cities and towns when their superstores are being assessed. A story this week out of Galesburg, Illinois quotes an assessor for the town as saying Wal-Mart will give him a list of the market values for Supercenters in nearby locales. The assessors in Galesburg will come up with their figure, but “If they (Wal-Mart) think it’s too high, they’ll bring in their own assessors,” he said. For other stories about how Wal-Mart strong arms towns over property taxes, search Newsflash by “assessment.”