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. Council denies excessive tax claims

    During open session, the Menomonie City Council passed a resolution asking state legislators to approve current legislation that would close property law loopholes used by some national chain stores to substantially reduce the property taxes they pay. Barbara Lyon The Dunn County News
  2. Compromise on how to tax large retailers falls apart in wee hours of Assembly finale

    A last-ditch bid in the state Assembly to address efforts by large retailers to lower their property-tax assessments, which critics say shifts tax costs to homeowners, has collapsed, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said early Friday. Mark Sommerhauser Wisconsin State Journal
  3. WalMart Wants Tax Refund Due to "Dark Store Theory"

    Wal-mart is contesting the property assessment of its Minocqua store, contending the property is worth much less and thus it’s due a refund of thousands of dollars it paid in property taxes. Dean S. Acheson
  4. City takes on 'dark store' tax strategy

    The City Council may take action Monday on a resolution that would ask the state Legislature to act on ending “dark store” strategies in the city and state. As defined by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, “dark store theory” is . . . . Ben Rueter Leader-Telegram
  5. Close the Dark Stores Tax Loophole

    Would GOP legislators rather raise property taxes for others than lose political donations? Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) declared that legislation to reign in . . . . State Sen. Janis Ringhand, Urban Milwaukee
  6. Columbus wants Dark Store loophole closed

    The city of Columbus joined leaders across Wisconsin in designating Dec. 11 as “Dark Store Day” to draw attention to legislation designed to close the dark store loophole. As big box retail chains and single tenant commercial properties use these. . . Columbus Journal December 11, 2019
  7. Wisconsin 'dark store' cases threaten to hike your property taxes

    Appleton Post-Crescent Large chain-store retailers are trying to cut their property assessments by more than $700 million across Wisconsin — potentially forcing other taxpayers to pay more to fund local public services, a USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin... Madeleine Behr, Doug Schneider and Haley BeMiller
  8. Mayor Fights for Fairness

    Superior Mayor Jim Paine joined local leaders across Wisconsin to designate Dec. 11 as Dark Store Day. The goal was to call attention to legislation designed to close the "dark store loophole," property tax avoidance tactics that aren't available to. . . Shelly Nelson, Superior Telegram
  9. Local leaders discuss big box tax implications

    Provisions in a newly proposed bill could halt the "Dark Store Strategy" in which commercial property owners argue for the same lower tax assessment given to other stores in town that are vacant. At the heart of the issue: Should a big box store . . . . Fox 11 News
  10. A Recent Court Ruling Shines New Light on the Dark Store Appraisal Theory

    On Friday morning, October 20, at the Hotel Phillips in downtown Kansas City, word spread among those attending IAAO’s Fall Leadership Days that the Michigan Supreme Court had reached a much-anticipated decision on a big-box/dark store case. Magazine Association of Assessing Officers
  11. Dark Store Day Shines Light on Corporate Loophole

    Local municipal leaders supported by the Wisconsin League of Municipalities urged people to contact their state representatives on Monday, Dec. 11, Dark Store Day. Dark Store Day was formed from a growing concern . . . . Ben Rogers, The Press
  12. City leaders gather in Ashwaubenon for "Dark Store Day"

    It's a tax avoidance strategy by commercial retailers such as Menards, Walgreens, and CVS Who ask to pay property taxes equal to stores that are vacant or boarded up, when in reality, their stores are booming with business. Jordan Lamers, Wearegreenbay.com
  13. In Ashwaubenon, cities and villages demand legislature close dark-stores loophole

    Local leaders from Oshkosh to Howard gathered in Brown County on Monday to demand state lawmakers change a law that they say shifts property tax burdens from chain retailers to homeowners and small businesses. . . . Doug Schneider USA TODAY NETWORK Green Bay Gazette
  14. Dark Store Day: 19 mayors speak out against tax loophole that allows some big box retailers to pay l

    Nineteen city and village mayors, including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Monday, December 11th spoke out against so-called "dark store" practices. The mayors called it a tax loophole that allows big box retailers to pay millions less in taxes . . . . Jonathon Gregg, Fox 6
  15. Meijer tax appeal costs Merrillville $2.3M

    Merrillville Town Council is tightening its purse strings after losing a tax appeal from Meijer totaling almost $2.3 million. "We'll see a salary ordinance with no raises because of this and we may have to lay some people off," Town Manager . . . . Karen Caffarini, Chicago Post-Tribune
  16. Big box, Small tax bill

    Monona resident Peter McKeever wasn’t sure how many people would show up at the community meeting he co-organized to raise awareness about the so-called “dark store” tax loophole and the lawsuit that Walmart has filed against the city of Monona. Allison Geyer Isthmus November 22, 2017
  17. Lawmakers want to close ‘dark-store’ tax loophole

    Local government officials are backing two GOP bills they say would protect them from undergoing costly legal challenges spurred by big-box stores looking to lower their property taxes. But others countered the two bills target one type of business. . . WisPolitics.com
  18. Baraboo joins tax fight against retailers

    Baraboo is joining communities statewide in asking the state Legislature to close a tax loophole exploited by big-box retailers. On Tuesday, the City Council voted unanimously to support a resolution asking for legislation to eliminate the “dark stores” Ben Bromley Baraboo News Republic
  19. Guest column: ‘Dark store’ loophole must be closed

    There’s an issue citizens of the city of Monona and residents across the state of Wisconsin should be aware of, called the “dark store” loophole. Big box stores like Menards, Target and Walmart, to name a few, are successfully arguing in court that . . . Andrew Kitslaar The Herald-Independent
  20. Reilly supports bills against 'dark store' tax assessments

    Says trend saves for big-box stores, increases tax burden on homeowners Hannah Weikel Freeman Staf July 20, 2017f
  21. States Forced to Address ‘Dark Store’ Valuation Theory

    A growing list of states will revise their property tax codes to help municipalities cope with revenue losses attributable to big box retailers’ widespread use of the “dark store” theory of valuation to cut their assessments, according to . . . Michael J. Bologna for Bloomberg BNA June 29, 2017
  22. Wisconsin State Lawmakers Fight Back Against Dark Store Loophole

    Madison - Republican lawmaker Robert Brooks introduced two assembly bills with the help of Duey Stroebel of Saukville and Roger Roth of Appleton, these bills aim to stop the dark store loophole, today the Assembly Committee of Ways and Means . . . . Steven Dent We Are Green Bay June 29, 2017
  23. How Big Box Stores Shift Their Property Taxes Onto Homeowners

    Something called the “Dark Store Loophole” lets companies like Wal-Mart shift their property taxes to homeowners and small merchants. This obscure [property tax dodge, which has been going on for more than two decades, has pitted Big Box retailers . . . Al Norman HUFFPOST June 27, 2017
  24. 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
  25. 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
  26. 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
  27. 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
  28. 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
  29. 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
  30. 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
View All

Dark Store Resources

Dark Store Theory Research Paper by Pamela Matthews, UW- Milwaukee
How Big Box Retail Establishments Employ It to Challenge Property Tax Assessments, Its Impact on Municipalities, and How Three State Legislatures Have Responded

Dark Store Issue Briefing

Dark Store Model Resolution calling on the Legislature to pass legislation Closing Tax Loopholes Causing More of Property Tax Burden to Shift from Commercial to Residential. (This downloads to your computer as a Word document.)

Dark Store Resolutions

City of Brookfield
City of Delavan
City of De Pere
City of Fond du Lac
City of Franklin
City of Glendale
City of Green Lake
City of Greenfield
City of Janesville
City of Johnson Creek
City of Kenosha (2017)
City of Kenosha (2018
City of Lake Geneva
City of Lodi
City of Madison
City of Menomonie
City of Milwaukee
City of Monona
City of New Berlin
City of New London
City of New Richmond
City of Oak Creek
City of Oconomowoc
City of Onalaska
City of Platteville
City of Plover
City of Plymouth
City of Portage
City of Prairie du Chien
City of Rhinelander
City of Sheboygan
City of Stoughton
City of Thorp
City of Watertown
City of Waukesha
City of Wauwatosa
City of West Allis (2017)
City of West Allis II (2018)
City of West Bend
City of West Milwaukee
City of Wisconsin Rapids
St. Croix County
Village of Bellevue
Village of Hales Corners
Village of Manawa
Village of Pewaukee
Village of Pleasant Prairie
Village of Plover
Village of Saukville
Village of Shorewood Hills
Village of Suamico
Village of Thiensville
Village of Wales
Village of Waterford
Village of Waunakee
Washington County

​Letters from Concerned Citizens

Letter to Senator Testin from Thad Kubisiak