'Dark Stores' bill restores fairness to property assessments

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LANSING (WLUC) Michigan has taken the first step to repairing a problem in its property tax system that had given a special advantage to corporate retailers, representatives from three local government associations said Wednesday.

This morning, the House Tax Policy Committee reported House Bill 5578, sponsored by Rep. David Maturen, which would put an end to the detrimental “Dark Stores” assessment theory by requiring that commercial property be assessed at its “highest and best use.”

For several years, the Michigan Tax Tribunal has allowed Big Box retailers such as Home Depot and Target to be valued based on sales of similarly sized properties that are vacant, abandoned or now used for a different purpose — leading to significant cuts in their property taxes, and giving them an advantage over small businesses in their community.

HB 5578 would end this practice by putting traditional sound appraisal standards into law, creating a fair, equitable system for resolving disputes. The bill also prevents the inappropriate use of deed restrictions as an unreasonable sales comparison during an appeal.

Director of Government Relations for the Michigan Townships Association (MTA), Judy Allen, mentioned that Rep. Maturen's bill creates a level playing field and requires all taxpayers to be treated fairly.

“Fairness must be at the heart of our property tax system,” said Steve Currie, Deputy Director of the Michigan Association of Counties (MAC).

“Rep. Maturen drew on his experience as a county commissioner and as an appraiser to identify a solution that ensures all three appraisal methods are being used.”

Director of State Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League (MML), Chris Hackbarth, said that HB 5578 is a fair and equitable solution to a complex issue facing our communities.

HB 5578 now moves to the full House of Representatives, where MTA, MAC, MML and other groups are pushing for a quick vote.

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