ESCANABA — A bill to close the so-called dark store tax loophole was reintroduced in the state House Tuesday. Legislation stalled last year in the Senate.
State Rep. David Maturen (R-Brady Township) of Kalamazoo County said the bill is backed by a bipartisan group of 54 House members. It addresses the “dark store” property tax appeals issue involving the Michigan Tax Tribunal. The bill would require Tax Tribunal members to apply standard appraisal procedures when reaching their findings in larger property tax cases. Currently big box stores are appealing the worth of their property based on dark or closed stores in the state.
State Rep. John Kivela (D-Marquette) is co-sponsoring the bill. He spoke at the Michigan Municipal League Conference in Lansing when the bill was reintroduced in House. He called the current situation a tax break that unfairly benefits big box stores at the expense of local businesses and the community.
“The dark store property tax loophole has taken millions of dollars out of my communities and communities across the state,” he said. “When we lose that tax money, residents lose as well because it hurts services that residents and businesses rely on and that are provided by our local governments.”
Kivela was cosponsor of the same bill last year that passed the House by a vote of 97-11. The bill, however, faced opposition in the Senate.
Escanaba City Manager Jim O’Toole said he continues to be frustrated with a lack of progress on the issue.
“This dark store is a real situation and it’s a real economic factor for everybody but, more importantly, it just goes against the grain for best practices for how properties are valued,” O’Toole said.
The city is involved in a state supreme court appeal in a case with Menard’s. O’Toole says the city filed its briefs on that case this month.
Despite the reintroduction of the legislation to fix the problem, State Sen. Tom Casperson of Escanaba said it still faces opposition in the Senate.