City of Sault Ste. Marie to File Lawsuit Against Walmart for Property Tax Issue

"We’re looking for everybody to pay their fair share," Chippewa County administrator Jim German said.

An Upper Peninsula community wants to file a lawsuit against Walmart over a property tax loophole.    

The "Dark Store" property tax loophole allows big box stores to pay less in taxes.

At last night’s Chippewa County commissioners meeting, they agreed to help foot the bill along with the City of Sault Ste. Marie, to file a lawsuit to stop the practice.

9 & 10’s Blayke Roznowski and photojournalist Noah Jurik have details to explain the "Dark Store" concept and why local governments feel cheated.

Chippewa County officials say they’re looking at a revenue loss of about $270,000 to the community because of "Dark Store" tax loopholes.

They say Walmart and other big box stores use the loopholes to pay less in property tax. 

"Everything from senior meals to emergency services in the country, to police and pension funds," German said. "They really hit all over the board."

The Walmart in Sault Ste. Marie regularly files an appeal with the Michigan Tax Tribunal to have their current property assessed at the same level as their old, empty big box store.

That allows them to avoid paying $55 sq./ft. and pay just $15 sq./ft. 

"It’s actually really hurting local government," German said.

Smaller businesses like Cup of the Day say the loophole is not fair to them.

"Our small business pays our fair share of taxes," Cup of the Day owner Anthony Stackpoole said. "We don’t get to go to a state tribunal and have our taxes erased. The taxes help our community."

The Chippewa County Road Commission is one of many of the services impacted. 

They’re looking at a loss of more than $4,000.

"$4,000 dollars is another culvert in the ground," Chippewa County Road Commission superintendent Robert Laitnen said. "That’s about a days worth of ditching work that could have been excavated."

"What it’s really all about is paying your fair share and equality," German said. "We want to protect our citizens and that’s how you do it."

We reached out to Walmart for comment, but they did not get back to us.

The next step is for the city to approve the lawsuit which is expected Monday. 

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