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Monday, January 07, 2019

Janesville Alone Paid 27% Of The State's Dark Store Refunds In 2017


Essentially, a lawyer preys on the city by arguing that a building is unique to a company’s needs and should be compared to a similar building that’s vacant or “dark.” -- Janesville Gazette Editorial, March 18, 2016

Soon after that editorial, it was discovered the Gazette's parent company, Bliss Communications, was a dark store suitor themselves and won a settlement against Janesville.

In a recent article from Bloomberg, the mouthpiece for the state's largest political business lobby, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), said the dark store property tax shift does not exist. That it's based on a false premise because only $3.1 million was refunded in 2017 — a tiny chunk of the $10 billion in local property taxes paid.

Bloomberg Excerpt:
“We successfully opposed it last time and we will continue along those lines, telling legislators the underlying premise of the legislation is false—there has been no tax shift,” said Corydon Fish, director of tax, transportation and legal affairs for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

He also disputed the narrative that assessors are refunding vast sums to retailers through property tax litigation. A recent analysis by the Wisconsin Policy Forum, a tax policy think tank, found only $3.1 million was refunded to commercial property owners in dark store challenges in 2017—a tiny chunk of the $10 billion in local property taxes paid.

“The tax shift doesn’t pan out in the actual data,” Fish said.

Oh? But it does pan out for several communities in Wisconsin. Especially Janesville.

In 2017, Janesville paid out $849,637 in dark store refunds to a handful of self-described "community stakeholders." As it turns out, Janesville's population of about 65,000 in a state of 5.8 million paid $850K of the $3.1M in Wisconsin dark store refunds for 2017. So digging just a little deeper, we find one community with a little more than one percent of the state's population paid 27% of dark store refunds in 2017.

Ouch!

Dark Store refunds are not spread or absorbed across state taxpayers as the intellectually dishonest WMC would have us believe. And, even if it was absorbed statewide, it would not change the fact that a significant tax burden is being shifted by the dark store loophole.

The bigger problem is; intellectual dishonesty lobbies are winning.

ADDITIONAL:

NYT - As Big Retailers Seek to Cut Their Tax Bills, Towns Bear the Brunt

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