Study: Wal-Mart Systematically Challenges Property Tax Assessments, Cutting Support for Schools and Other Government Services

Study: Wal-Mart Systematically Challenges Property Tax Assessments, Cutting Support for Schools and Other Government Services

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 , /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The first-ever investigation of Wal-Mart’s local property tax records finds that the retailer systematically seeks to minimize its payments that support schools and other government services. That’s the finding of Rolling Back Property Tax Payments, a report released today by Good Jobs First, a non-profit research center. (Full text at http://www.goodjobsfirst.org .)

“Wal-Mart drains funds from communities by challenging the valuation put on its properties by public officials,” said Philip Mattera , research director of Good Jobs First and principal author of the report. “When it succeeds, it diminishes the revenue available to pay for education, police, and other services.”

Based on a sample of stores and distribution centers, the report estimates Wal-Mart has filed challenges at more than one-third of its facilities, with a total of over 2,100 appeals nationwide.

“When it meets opposition to a new store, the company claims it will bring economic benefits to the community, which should lead to higher property values,” said Good Jobs First executive director Greg LeRoy. “In these appeals, however, Wal-Mart in effect confirms the argument raised by many neighborhood groups that the presence of the store will reduce property values.”

Wal-Mart often faces strong opposition to its appeals from tax assessors. “We were surprised to find Wal-Mart loses more often than it wins,” LeRoy said. The company has won some $30 million from appeals over the past decade. Even when officials defeat a challenge, they often have to spend large sums on consultants to prepare their defense.

Good Jobs First found variations in the frequency of challenges among states. The largest numbers, in percentage and absolute terms, were in Texas. Other states with high rates are Colorado, Kansas, California and New Hampshire.

“While we suspect many of these challenges are motivated by obsessive cost-cutting rather than a belief a facility is being taxed unfairly,” Mattera said, “we didn’t analyze the merits of Wal-Mart’s claims.”

The report concludes by saying to Wal-Mart: “Cease your assault on property taxes. If you care about the communities in which you operate, forget about challenges and pay your tax bills without complaint. The amounts involved mean a lot more to those communities than to your $11 billion bottom line.”

SOURCE Good Jobs First

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