Study Claims Wal-Mart 'Systematically Challenges Property Tax Assessments'

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Wal-Mart has repeatedly sought to minimize its payments that support schools and other government services, according to "Rolling Back Property Tax Payments," a report released yesterday by Good Jobs First, a non-profit research center that is critical of Wal-Mart. The group claims that this is the first-ever investigation of Wal-Mart's local property tax records.

"Wal-Mart drains funds from communities by challenging the valuation put on its properties by public officials," said Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First and principal author of the report, in a statement. "When it succeeds, it diminishes the revenue available to pay for education, police, and other services."

Based on a sample of stores and distribution centers, the report estimates Wal-Mart has filed challenges at more than one-third of its facilities, with a total of over 2,100 appeals nationwide.

As of yesterday, Wal-Mart had not issued a response, because a spokesman said the company had not seen the report.

Wal-Mart often faces strong opposition to its appeals from tax assessors, according to the report. "We were surprised to find Wal-Mart loses more often than it wins," said Good Jobs First executive director Greg LeRoy. "The company has won some $30 million from appeals over the past decade. Even when officials defeat a challenge, they often have to spend large sums on consultants to prepare their defense."

Good Jobs First said it found variations in the frequency of challenges among states. The largest numbers, in percentage and absolute terms, were in Texas. Other states with high rates are Colorado, Kansas, California, and New Hampshire.

"While we suspect many of these challenges are motivated by obsessive cost-cutting rather than a belief a facility is being taxed unfairly, we didn't analyze the merits of Wal-Mart's claims," Mattera noted.
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