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WMC Files Brief in “Dark Stores” Lawsuit

MADISON – Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) – the combined state chamber, manufacturers’ association and safety council – filed a brief this week in a lawsuit now pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court over the so-called “dark stores” issue.

For years, taxpayer-funded lobbyists have attempted to change state law to allow local governments to assess “occupied” stores at higher values than otherwise identical “vacant” stores. WMC has led a coalition opposing these changes arguing such a change would unlawfully tax business value via the property tax. In its effort, WMC has cited longstanding precedent in Wisconsin that the value of real estate is what matters, not the business occupying it.

Having failed to obtain the legislative change they sought, the Village of Plover decided to engage in this unlawful practice anyway when it assessed a big box retail store. The store appealed that assessment, and the suit – Lowes Home Centers, LLC v. Village of Plover – could now be taken up by the Supreme Court.

“Local governments must be held accountable when they overstep their authority,” said WMC attorney Lucas Vebber. “The legislature has repeatedly rejected this scheme to raise taxes on local retailers. Assessors can’t ignore the law just because they want businesses to pay more in property taxes.”

In its brief, WMC explains current state law and highlights the numerous failed attempts from taxpayer-funded lobbyists to change the law. If the Supreme Court accepts the appeal, it will be heard sometime in 2021.

Click here to read WMC’s brief.




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