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.

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 Glendale
City of Green Lake
City of Greenfield
City of Janesville
City of Johnson Creek
City of Kenosha 
City of Lake Geneva
City of Lodi
City of Madison
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
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 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 

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. Target_Kansas

    County Settles with Target

    Riley County recently negotiated the property value of Target at $1 million lower than the initial appraisal after the commercial retailer challenged the county through the state Board of Tax Appeals. The Mercury - Manhattan, Kansas
  5. tax-graphic-840x840 (1)

    Tax Breaks for Big-Box Stores Can Drain Money From Schools

    Paying attention to how much nearby corporate retailers pay in property taxes may not be a priority for most school district leaders, but some policymakers think that could change soon. Education Week - by Francisco Vara-Orta 8-2-17
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. 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
  16. 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
  17. 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
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. Chiller Dark Store
  21. 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...
  22. tax-graphic-840x840 (1).jpg
  23. Chiller Dark Store.png

    Retailers seek tax cuts with 'dark store' theory

    By Rick Romell January 14, 2017Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  24. Chiller Dark Store.png
  25. Chiller Dark Store.png
  26. 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
  27. 800x-1.jpg

    How Big-Box Retailers Weaponize Old Stores

    Shannon Pettypiece December 8, 2016 Photo by Alamy BloombergBusinessweek
  28. 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
  29. 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
  30. 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
View All