A Wal-Mart critic will issue a report today -- broken early by the New York Times -- that describes how the retailer works systematically nationwide to reduce property taxes on its stores and distribution centers. Arkansas is among the states the report studied, but it might surprise you that it includes a report of a county tax official refusing to roll over to the giant corporation.
Philip Mattera, who directed the study by Good Jobs First, said his researchers spoke to many local officials who said they lacked resources to fight Wal-Mart and gave tax reductions they believed were not warranted. “Other taxpayers have to pick up the slack” when Wal-Mart pays lower property taxes, he said.
Hernando County, Fla., spent more than $100,000 fighting Wal-Mart’s request to exclude sales taxes from the value of its shelving and other fixtures, said its lawyer, Gaylord Wood of Bunnell, Fla. The Florida Supreme Court last year ruled against Wal-Mart.
Mr. Wood and others said that when local officials refused Wal-Mart’s requests for lower tax bills they “suddenly find Lincoln Town Cars full of attorneys arriving at their offices.” He said the tactic made a statement about how costly it would be to resist the company.
Don R. Hurst Jr., the assessor in Johnson County, Ark., said that happened to him when Wal-Mart sought to reduce the assessment on a distribution center in Clarksville, Ark., to $23 million from $33 million, starting in 2003.
“Wal-Mart showed up with their property-tax executive, three lawyers and a couple of accountants,” Mr. Hurst said. He added that he had been acquainted with Sam Walton, the legendary founder of Wal-Mart, and “I am sure he would not approve” of trying to reduce the money “that goes for our kids’ schools.”
Wal-Mart, which is based in Arkansas, sued Mr. Hurst and lost.
Bravo, Assessor Hurst. Copy this idea about protecting school children's resources to North Little Rock's mayor.