Wisconsin voters to consider closing 'dark store' loophole

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin voters will decide this fall if lawmakers should close the state's so-called "dark store" loophole.

Voters this fall in 22 Wisconsin counties, cities and villages will consider an advisory referendum that would end the policy, Wisconsin Public Radio reported .

The loophole lets companies assess property taxes using the value of an empty store instead of an operational store. This typically gives stores lower assessments, which means businesses save money.

Barron County Board Chairman Louie Okey said assessing properties as if they're vacant doesn't make sense because they are generating revenue.

"If we do not close that loophole, those places will have their property tax burden reduced, and, therefore, push more of the burden on the residential property owner," Okey said.

Corydon Fish, the director of tax for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, argues that the burden is actually placed on businesses.

"They talk about a tax shift to homeowners when there's no such tax shift," he said. "The tax shift is actually from homeowners to businesses."

Fish said figures from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue show that, in recent years, commercial property values have paid a growing share of property taxes while residential property taxes have declined.

Kyle Christianson, director of government relations with the Wisconsin Counties Association, said residential taxpayers still account for more than two-thirds of property taxes in Wisconsin.

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said in an August memo that residential and commercial properties have been shouldering more of the tax burden in the last decade, while manufacturing and other properties have seen taxes decline.

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