Dark Store Tax Loophole 

Dark Store Informational Packet 
May 3, 2017 news conference announcing introduction of the legislation thanks to WisconsinEye.  Watch it here...

The Issue:

  The “Dark Store” strategy of property tax assessment is looming large over communities throughout the state of Wisconsin and unfortunately could soon be coming to your city or village.  In fact, it may already be there.

In essence, the Dark Store strategy is a tax loophole being used by Big Box retailers and other national chains to lower the amount they pay in property taxes. Retailers such as Lowe’s, Target, Meijer, Home Depot, and Menards are arguing that the market value of their thriving store should be based on the sales of similar size “comparable” properties that are vacant and abandoned.

What? You mean a fully operational store, like a new Target, gets to pay the same property taxes as a closed, empty and “dark” K-Mart down the street? Yes, that’s exactly what the retailers are fighting for and it’s what is starting to happen more and more frequently.

Courts in other states like Michigan have upheld this “Dark Store theory” and cut property tax assessments in some cases by as much as 50 percent – resulting in a tax shift to homeowners or a cut in local services. If this strategy becomes successful in Wisconsin it could result in a shift of millions of dollars in tax burden across Wisconsin unless the loop hole is closed by the Legislature.  

The Solution: Follow the lead of the Indiana state legislature and pass legislation in Wisconsin closing off these tax strategies and stopping the tax shift to home owners. Pass legislation prohibiting assessors from valuing thriving big box stores the same as abandoned buildings in a different market segment.

New Store


Empty Store


Should this new thriving store be valued for property tax purposes like the abandoned store?

  That’s what many big box chains are successfully arguing to reduce their property taxes.  The result is that other taxpayers like you have to pick up the slack.  Not fair, is it?  Tell your legislator to do something about it.  Support legislation banning the dark store tax strategy.

  1. City to state: Hurry up on 'dark store' legislation

    The City of Sheboygan is throwing its support behind Wisconsin lawmakers’ efforts to pass “dark store” legislation that could affect how much state businesses pay in local property taxes. McLean Bennett USA Today Network WI
  2. Bills to Stop Big Retailers from Reducing their Property Tax Wins Wide Support

    The Village of Pleasant Prairie, along with scores of other Wisconsin municipalities, have expressed their vehement support for two bills to be introduced Monday in the State Legislature to fight attempts by big box retailers to reduce their property tax. By Long Hwa-shu for theYOUJournal
  3. Wisconsin Expected to Tackle Dark Store Controvery

    Wisconsin lawmakers will be asked to remedy two gaps in the property tax code that could shift much of the local tax burden from big box retailers such as Lowes Cos. Inc., Home Depot Inc. and . . . April 6, 2017 Bloomberg BNA
  4. GOP Lawmakers Unveil Bills Targeting Big Box Stores

    Big box stores in Wisconsin are being targeted in a pair of Republican-backed bills unveiled Wednesday at the state Capitol. The bills unveiled Wednesday set up a fight pitting retail giants like Target, Menards and Walgreens against Wisconsin . . . By Shamane Mills and The Associated Press
  5. Wisconsin lawmakers look to close ‘dark store’ loophole

    Legislation being introduced at the Capitol could change the way major retailers have their property taxes assessed. The package of bills from Republican lawmakers would reverse a 2008 State Supreme Court ruling that changed . . . . Andrew Beckett Wisconsin Radio Network
  6. GOP bills target 'dark store' big-box tax strategy based on Madison court ruling

    May 4, 2017 Republican state lawmakers have unveiled a pair of bills they say would prevent owners of big-box retail stores from lowering their property tax bills while shifting local tax burdens to small businesses and homeowners. Mark Sommerhauser Wisconsin State Journal
  7. Waukesha_WI

    Target, Menards, Farm & Fleet in battle with city

    WAUKESHA — Some bigbox stores in the city are furthering the monetary burden on taxpayers. The Freeman 04/04/2017 - Page A04
  8. 275px-WI_Ozaukee

    Let there be light

    OZAUKEE COUNTY — The state Legislature is expected to come forward soon to close a tax loophole that big box stores have been using to slash their tax bills. By Melanie Boyung - News Graphic Staff
  9. Big box stores gird for battle with Wisconsin cities

    A battle pitting big-box retail giants including Menards and Wal-Mart against Wisconsin towns and cities is headed to the Legislature. Republican-backed proposals, written in conjunction with the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, are designed to . . . . By SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press
  10. Retailers' tax dodge shifts burden to homeowners

    Recently I went to Madison as part of a delegation of Stevens Point elected officials for the League of Wisconsin Municipalities’ lobby day. At the top of the agenda: a tax dodge that major retailers are using to avoid paying their fair share . . . . David Shorr, for USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
  11. Chiller Dark Store
  12. Appleton city assessor wants to close “dark store” loophole costing taxpayers money

    February 22, 2017 The city of Appleton is trying to close a Wisconsin tax loophole that could be costing average taxpayers money. It’s called the dark store method, and it allows big box stores to lower their property tax assessment. . . Brittany Schmidt for WBAY
  13. 'Dark store' cases could cost millions in taxes

    February 13, 2017 HOWARD - An aggressive move by some major retail chains is putting homeowners in parts of Brown County and a number of other areas of Wisconsin at risk of a property tax jump in the coming years. Doug Schneider , USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
  14. County Board Asks State Lawmakers to Address Business Tax Loopholes

    Washington County officials have expressed their support regarding a measure that has impacted one municipality and has the potential to affect others throughout the nation. Members of the County Board of Supervisors approved an advisory resolution... by Ralph Chapoco, West Bend Daily News
  15. img_7455.jpg

    Fighting the “Dark Store Loophole”

    February 13, 2017 With a resolution recently adopted by the Milwaukee Common Council, the city joins municipalities across the state, and nation, in a fight against a legal loophole allowing large corporations to massively reduce their property taxes. By Graham Kilmer for Urban Milwaukee
  16. download.png

    Boxed In

    “Boxed In” is a 2016 documentary by Northern Michigan University Professor Dwight Brady, an Emmy Award winning producer, and 14 NMU students. Read on...
  17. tax-graphic-840x840 (1).jpg
  18. Chiller Dark Store.png

    Retailers seek tax cuts with 'dark store' theory

    By Rick Romell January 14, 2017Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  19. Chiller Dark Store.png
  20. Chiller Dark Store.png
  21. tax-graphic-840x840 (1).jpg

    Cities brood over 'dark store' tax lawsuits

    By Nate Beck December 26, 2016 Photo by Joe Sienkiewicz/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin USA Network-Wisconsin
  22. 800x-1.jpg

    How Big-Box Retailers Weaponize Old Stores

    Shannon Pettypiece December 8, 2016 Photo by Alamy BloombergBusinessweek
  23. Brookfield sends message to combat big retail loopholes

    By Geoff Bruce December 7, 2016 Photo by Geoff Bruce/New Media Group Brookfield Elm Grove Now
  24. brit5.jpg

    Dark store theory: The move big box retailers are making that could cost you big bucks

    By Brittany Shannon Fox 6 News December 4, 2016 Photo by Brittany Shannon Fox 6 News
  25. 11012016_biz_loopholes.jpg

    West Bend asks governor, legislators to close tax loopholes

    By Ralph Chapoco November 2, 2016 Photo by John Ehlke/Daily News Daily News
  26. walmart-gone.jpg

    Big-Box Stores Battle Local Governments Over Property Taxes

    BY Liz Farmer | SEPTEMBER 2016 Photo by Flickr/Brutal Social Governing
  27. 1473605615-SPORTS-AUTHORITY.jpg

    Should Lowe's 'dark store' strategy in Texas concern D-FW taxpayers?

    Maria Halkas September 12, 2016 Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News Dallas News
  28. 21158091-mmmain.jpg
View All