State News

Wisconsin small businesses urge lawmakers to close tax loophole that helps ‘big box’ businesses

Gov. Evers previously vowed to close the “dark store” loophole which lets big businesses get tax breaks for closed stores in the area.

Gov. Evers previously vowed to close the “dark store” loophole which lets big businesses get tax breaks for closed stores in the area.

Image By: Jacob Schellpfeffer

The National Federation of Independent Business — the leading small business organization in Wisconsin — is urging lawmakers to pass legislation in the next few weeks to sign two bills to eliminate personal property taxes, as well as close the dark store loophole.

The dark store loophole allows businesses in populated areas to argue their value is the same as that of an empty storefront. The loophole lets big box stores, like Walmart and Home Depot, pay less in taxes, with the responsibility then shifting to Wisconsin residents and small business owners to pay them, according to Emily Carlson, NFIB Senior Media Manager,. 

Bill Smith, NFIB State Director in Wisconsin, said a bill canceling the loophole would be critical to helping the economy grow.

“As our state’s small businesses continue to hire and create new jobs, increase wages and invest in our communities, it is critically important that tax fairness legislation be enacted before legislators wrap-up the 2019-’20 session,” Smith said in a statement.

In 2018, lawmakers considered a bill to block the practice but never voted on legislation. Last year, Gov. Tony Evers added a line in his budget that would have closed the loophole, but it also failed to pass. 

Wisconsin will take in $818 million more in revenue than originally expected, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Carlson said this surplus is partly why now is a good opportunity to pass legislation for fairer taxes to the public. 

“Small business owners are creating jobs, increasing their employee’s wages and investing in their communities,” Carlson said. “Eliminating the dark store loophole and eliminating the personal property taxes would go a long way toward making sure our hard-working Wisconsin small business owners continue to grow Wisconsin’s economy.”

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