Gov. Evers proposal to close tax loophole could lower property taxes for residents

A change to the way empty box stores are assessed could reduce your property taxes. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) said his state budget proposal will include a provision to close what’s known as the dark store tax loophole.

The governor made the announcement today after speaking at a Wisconsin Counties Association meeting in Madison. He hopes that it will help cities across the state increase their tax revenue to pay for projects.

“I know this has been an important issue to many of you, your local communities, your businesses and homeowners who are paying the price, and I believe we can make this change going forward,” Evers said.

Store owners argue the value of a new store can be based on the value of former retail properties in the area that are now vacant.

“What happens as a result is that they underpay taxes, and the homeowners and business members of the community end up paying that. It should be fair for all, and in order to do that, we have to close that loophole,” Evers said.

One property that comes to La Crosse city Lead Appraiser Patrick Burn’s mind is Valley View Mall. He’s currently reviewing the assessment for 2019.

“We will be lowering the assessment for the mall because it is not doing as well, because it has 25,000 square feet of retail space that is vacant,” Burns said.

Other big box stores that move into retail spaces could benefit from this new assessment by arguing for a lower property value, too, to save on taxes.

“It will shift it upon the rest of the entities on the tax base,” Burns said.

If the city gets fewer taxes from those big box properties, it needs to generate money for public expenses by raising taxes on residential properties.

“Since that is the majority of our tax base,” Burns said.

Burns believes closing the loophole would be a good thing for the community.

“Everyone should be assessed fairly and equitably so that no one else is set paying someone else’s tax base,” Burns said.

Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling, who represents La Crosse, said it will be a huge win for homeowners and small businesses. She also blamed the loophole for the jump in property taxes across the state last year.

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