The Source: How Can Texas Defend Itself Against 'Dark Store' Tax Loophole, Lawsuits?

Jan 23, 2017

Two bills filed for the current legislative session could help to keep cities across Texas from losing hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue.

Lowe's is just one of the big-box retailers suing Bexar County to have its properties assessed as vacant buildings, or "dark stores,"  instead of vibrant profit-generators - a tax loophole known as the "dark store" strategy. 

Bexar County State Rep. Diego Bernal introduced House Bill 182 to study the economic impact of sales disclosure and HB 379, which mandates it. 

"Without sales disclosure, appraised values for commercial properties are artificially low, shifting the property tax burden to average homeowners," Rep. Bernal's Communications Director Robin Harvey said in an email to The Source. "Disclosure of this information is fairly standard across the country and can help appraisal districts defend themselves against dark store arguments."

Harvey also said a more equitable appraisal system could increase tax revenues and potentially reduce the need for tax rate increases by school districts and municipalities.

In a previous interview with The Source, the City of San Antonio's Chief Financial Officer Ben Gorzell said the city would be losing roughly $275 million in tax revenue over the next five years if big-box retailers succeed in obtaining "dark store" appraisals. It could also set off a chain reaction, with businesses across the state using the same loophole to sue for lower values.

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Learn more from the San Antonio Express-News, Bloomberg, Watchdog.org, and Sault Ste. Marie Evening News.