Walmart response: About the Dark Store Tax 'Loophole'
As regional general manager in Wisconsin, I know Walmart is committed to every community we serve across this state. Thankfully, our associates know it too, as do thousands of Wisconsin customers who count on us to help them save money and live better every day. Because I know our company and our customers, I feel compelled to correct the misinformation presented by a special interest group in the recent opinion article, "The Walmart 'Dark Store Tax Loophole' every Wisconsin homeowner pays for."
First, Walmart is one of Wisconsin’s largest state and local taxpayers, and not a usual beneficiary of special treatment or public subsidies. This past fiscal year, Walmart paid $93.5 million in state and local taxes and generated about $194.7 million in sales taxes for the state of Wisconsin. These taxes support the communities we call home, and that’s important to us - and it’s important to our communities. In this new era of online commerce, many retailers are not obligated to pay or collect any state or local taxes, putting Main Street retailers, both big and small, at a disadvantage.
Like any business, Walmart has a responsibility to our customers and shareholders – many of whom are associates – to run our business responsibly, and follow all laws. And like any business and taxpayer, we firmly believe in fair treatment under the law, and that every property owner in this state has the right to challenge their property tax assessment if there is evidence of over-assessment.
Wisconsin’s constitution and state laws currently protect taxpayers from unfair taxation. Whether it’s a business or a homeowner, taxpayers have legal recourse and access to an appeal process. The appeals process is not unique to Walmart. It is available to all Wisconsin property owners. When any law-abiding taxpayer disagrees with the subjective findings of an assessor, they have rights to provide their own evidence and an impartial process to apply the law. The evidence Walmart provides is carefully reviewed by third-party professionals and, as courts have confirmed through their decisions, retailers and other businesses across the state have been subject to over-assessment by aggressive tax collectors.
As municipal budget deficits have grown, so too has the trend toward over-zealous property tax assessment, forcing property owners to initiate more challenges. While some special interest groups erroneously call it a loophole, the fact is the right of taxpayers to dispute over-assessment has been in state law for decades. Current law doesn’t harm taxpayers; in fact, it actually protects them from being over-taxed.
Another point to correct is the misleading claim that in challenging their property assessments, businesses are purposefully shifting the tax burden to residents. This is simply not accurate. Today, property taxes are increasing for commercial properties faster than they are increasing for residential, and commercial property owners are paying a greater share of the burden. If we want to keep our local businesses, then we must address this trend. Fair treatment of property taxpayers is essential to the future of retail.
We’re proud to employ more than 30,000 Wisconsinites and proud of our managers and associates, many of whom are very active in community and civic organizations across the state. We’re proud that our company buys more than $4.4 billion from suppliers right here in Wisconsin each year. We’re proud of the great things our company and our associates do every day to help people live better.
We’re proud to be contributing to the health and success of our communities, too – as a retailer, as an employer, and yes, as a taxpayer.
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