Testimony last week in Madison from municipal and county groups was nearly unanimous to overturn a tax loophole that opponents say is hurting local governments.
The tax loophole known as the "Dark Store" enables big box stores to use closed stores as comparable in tax valuations. The loophole is legal, and has enabled the companies to slash tax bills. Rhinelander has had stores use the loophole.
State Senator Janis Ringhand is a former mayor of Evansville and is a cosponsor of bills to close the loophole...
"....in Janesville, closest to me it's a Menards that has been sitting vacant for nearly 10 years. A newer building (owner) can say 'hey, my building is not worth any more than that vacant building down the street. They are the same square footage that one is valued way less because it's not being used and there's not as much value that it's not being used'...."
Rhinelander alderman Alex Young testified before the legislative committee. He says the loopholes put more pressure on the city and taxpayers...
"...which results in shifting the tax burden from those commercial properties further onto homeowners and small businesses that can afford to hire the big shot tax consultants that can find those loopholes. These bills are designed to do that and I was down there testifying...."
Menards has filed an appeal of its tax situation with Rhinelander, hoping for a lower tax bill. Senator Ringhand says the bill has bipartisan support. Of the many officials who testified, Ringhand said only a couple of interests favored keeping the loophole.