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Lawmakers to try to shut down big box loophole

An empty big box store - a former K-Mart in Grand Blanc Michigan
Michigan Municipal League

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers and local officials will try again this year to shut down a tax break that’s allowed big box stores to cut their property taxes.


The so-called “dark store” loophole allows open and functioning big-box stores to base their property taxes on the value of stores that have been shut down. The value of the empty stores can be further reduced by restrictions on who can buy them.


“These big box stores are getting reductions upwards of 60, 70% at times in their taxable value,” says state Representative John Kivela, D-Marquette. “It’s just not fair.”


Judy Allen with the Michigan Townships Association says the difference is made up in cuts to public safety, libraries, and schools, and higher taxes for local homeowners and small businesses.


“So who pays that? Who’s paying the rest of that share? It’s the small businesses. It’s the homeowners,” she says. “It’s a shifting of the burden, and that’s what we have an issue with is the shifting of the burden.”


The retail giants say they pay their fair share of local taxes.


There is also a legal challenge to the “dark stores” loophole pending before the Michigan Supreme Court.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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