Desperate Local Politicians Seek to Preserve Surreptitious Business Activities Tax
Less noticed during this year’s roads tax furore, a roiling commercial property tax dispute has exposed a widespread, sub rosa business activities tax hidden in commercial real property taxes. A hidden tax you have been paying with every purchase at big box chain retailers who occupy stores they themselves own. Big box retailers have been exposing and successfully challenging this corrupt assessing practice through the Michigan Tax Tribunal and local units of government are howling over the loss of their ill gotten revenue. Michael B. Shapiro of Honigman, Miller has been leading the charge against these bloated assessments.
Local units of government are demanding the Michigan Legislature overturn long standing real estate valuation principles and the Michigan court rulings which hold that assessed true cash value (i.e. fair market value) for tax purposes be based upon what a property would be sold for at arm’s length. They want true cash value to effectively incorporate the retail success of current owner-occupants. This artificially jacks up the property’s true cash value, its taxes, and the prices you pay at the store. Remember that businesses don’t pay taxes, customers of those businesses – in this case you – do.
Michigan’s nitwit media have deceitfully relabeled traditional true cash value assessment the ‘Dark Stores Loophole’. Local government organizations are screaming about lost revenues. Even MoveOn.org is right in there with a petition to support their favorite spenders. This is a devious effort to stampede our state’s legislators into codifying creative assessment methods solely intended to extract surreptitious revenues from shoppers. A follow on to the more blatant ‘Amazon Tax’ campaign of 2014. The State of Michigan got into your pocket last year, now it is your local government’s turn.
The term ‘Dark Stores Loophole’ was created to suggest that vacant big box stores have lower, fire sale values when compared to occupied stores. True enough, but we are discussing assessments used to determine real estate, i.e. property, taxes. Not taxes on business activity. The two creative assessment methods used most often to loot shoppers are ‘construction cost‘ and ‘imputed lease‘ calculations. Each might be valid under some very limited circumstances, but both are entirely invalid when assessing big box retailers.