Dark Store Tax Loophole Resource Page

The Issue:  The “Dark Store” theory 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 theory 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, Menards, Walgreens, and CVS 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.

Some courts in Wisconsin 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. These rulings 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 clarifying that leases are appropriately factored into the valuation of properties and prohibiting assessors from valuing thriving big box stores the same as abandoned buildings in a different market segment.


Should this new thriving store be valued for property tax purposes like the abandoned store in the photo below?  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.  


Big Box Dark Store Documentary


A highly informative documentary film explaining the complex, yet devastating “Dark Store” tax loophole issue facing Wisconsin communities. This is a hot topic the League of Wisconsin Municipalities has been fighting for more than a year and at a compact 24-minutes it is great film to show in your local communities when explaining this issue.

“Boxed In” is a 2016 documentary by Northern Michigan University Professor Dwight Brady, an Emmy Award winning producer, and 14 NMU students.

Dark Store Resources

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.

Big-Box Stores Battle Local Governments Over Property Taxes

Nice summary of the dark store issue in the September 2016 issue of Governing.

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

An article on the just beginning process in Texas.  Dallas News

'Dark stores' argument allows big businesses to skimp on property taxes

An account of the 'Dark Store' Janesville situation.  Janesville Gazette

Dark Store Strategy surfaces in Alabama

An account of Lowe's actions in Alabama.  AL.COM Article

West Bend WI asks governor to close tax loopholes

Facing two lawsuits and the prospect of a significant decline in tax revenues from larger retailers, area administrators have officially petitioned state officials for assistance.  Daily News Article