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Will this be the year to close “Dark store” loophole? How it impacts you

MADISON (WKOW) — As Governor Evers tours the state to rally support for the budget he introduced last week, closing the dark store loophole is poised to become a big issue at the state capitol.

It allows big businesses to save huge amounts of money on their property taxes, but cities say it leaves people paying more.

Woodman’s in Sun Prairie is a recent example as they will be paying $90,955 less in property taxes after the grocery chain sued the city of Sun Prairie. The store claims its property tax assessment was too high.

The case was settled privately outside the courts last December, but now the effects are spreading throughout the city.

Sun Prairie Mayor Paul Esser said in total, the city lost $30,000 in legal fees to negotiate a solution.

“It’s about a third of a police officer or that’s a whole street plowing service that (it) could be used towards and the problem isn’t only that one company, there are others as well,” said Esser.

The city has also experienced this with Target and Walmart. President of Woodman’s, Clint Woodman said in a statement they came to a “mutually amicable resolution” on two legal matters regarding the City’s tax assessment of its property.  

“We appreciate the City of Sun Prairie working with us on this important issue of proper taxation,” said Woodman.

Esser acknowledged there’s no hard feelings but fears it will happen again unless reforms pass to close the loophole.

A bipartisan bill was introduced last year but was never called for a vote after Republican leadership heard opposition from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. They argue it would legalize tax hikes on businesses and force big box stores to pay massive tax bills.

“They’ve all found out that this works and there are people who are promoting this and telling them to do it, doing the work for them,” said Esser.

What this means for you, well – depending on how much a retailer sues a city it could cost you a lot or you might not notice a small increase in your property tax bill.

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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