Walmart Acquiesces in Big-Box ‘Dark Store’ Tax Dispute in Michigan

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Last week, Walmart dropped a court appeal against the city of Sault Saint Marie in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, bringing an end to a two-year tax dispute and handing a surprise victory to a government coalition formed to combat a local manifestation of a larger movement that has pushed down property tax rates for “big box” retailers across several Midwestern states in recent years.

Walmart was fighting to apply the so-called “dark stores” tax-assessment theory to its “supercenter” space in the city of around 14,000 residents, located across the St. Mary’s River from Canada. The theory holds that the value of big-box retail property should be assessed as if it were empty. Companies like Menards, Home Depot, Target and Walmart say the dark stores theory more accurately tracks with the market because demand for big-box retail space is fairly limited. They say the value of an operating big-box business is much greater than the value of a cavernous vacant storefront property.

Opponents of the theory argue that all kinds of property similarly treated would see their tax assessments plunge. The value of an occupied home, they point out, is not equal to the same home fallen into foreclosure and left unoccupied for weeks or months or longer.

Nevertheless, the dark stores theory has gained traction in assessor offices across the country, and particularly at the Michigan Tax Tribunal. Disputes heard there stretching back over the last half decade have seen repeat victories for retailers. State tax revenue has plummeted as a result—by $100 million since 2013, according to some estimates.

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Marquette Residents Deliver Community Invitation

Photo by Mike Treacy

It was sprinkling Saturday morning, September 24, as approximately 130 hearty Marquette residents walked into the Lowe’s store with an invitation to the Lowe’s corporate executives to come to Marquette in response to our residents’ and county officials’ concerns about how Lowe’s tax policies are affecting us.

Lowe’s literature talks about how much they value the communities in which they operate, but Marquette County residents and officials are seeing a discrepancy between what was said and what is actually happening. We want to encourage them to remain a good corporate citizen in our community.

The Marquette Mining Journal published a clear description of the event on the front page of the paper Tuesday, September 27.

See more photos of the event on our Facebook page.


Join Us: Deliver a Community Invitation to Lowe’s Executives

Marquette County Citizens for Fair Share is extending a formal “Community Invitation to Lowe’s Executives”.

We want Lowe’s execs to meet with Marquette County officials to discuss the dire impact their “Dark Store” tax strategy is having on our community.

We are urging you to join us.
When:       Saturday, September 24, 10:15 – 11:00am
Where:     Marquette Lowe’s store, US 41 West

  • Help us deliver the “Community Invitation.”
  • We’ll be orderly and respectful.
  • We won’t block entrances or interfere with shoppers.

To participate: 

  1. Meet in parking lot at the outer edge
  2. Look for volunteer coordinators with name tags
  3. We will walk in together
  4. One person will be the spokesperson to speak with the Lowe’s staff
  5. On a signal from the volunteer coordinators, we will all walk out together

To prepare:

  • Read the excellent Op Ed from Sunday’s Mining Journal by Fred Kottler and Greg Seppanen.
  • Watch Boxed In a 30-min documentary

What to do about Dark Store taxes

STEP 1 1-inch Boxed In Premiere graphic
Inform yourself and watch the documentary BOXED IN

Contact friends and family who have a Michigan Senator on the Finance Committee. Tell them to a) watch Boxed In and then b) contact their senators.

See map of Finance Committee member districts  Senate Finance Committee's Districts Map

See list of Finance Committee Senators with contact info
and individual district maps


Accompany a group in Marquette (see event details) that will be delivering a message to Lowe’s on Saturday, September 24 (meet in Lowe’s parking lot at 10:15 a.m.)   We are following up on a letter sent by the Marquette County Board to the CEO Robert Niblock requesting a chance to talk about the role of Lowe’s as a corporate citizen in our community and Lowe’s “response.”

Follow the links in the paragraph above to see the letter sent by our county board, learn how much money Lowe’s is taking out of our county, and how Lowe’s responded to our county board.

As much as you can, SHOP LOCALLY!  80% of the money you spend there WILL STAY in your community. (In Marquette area and Escanaba look for B.R.I.T.E stores)

Contact us at with any questions.

Take action on the Dark Store Taxation Issue

Kelsie Thompson of the Mining Journal, wrote an excellent article about the Premiere of Boxed In held in Marquette on Aug 24.

People in attendance were asked to take 3 steps
to be in touch with Michigan Senators on the Finance Committee.
They were asked to support locally owned businesses (including 162 B.R.I.T.E. stores) that are not filing with the tax tribunal for the dark store tax loophole.
Accompany a group that will be delivering a message to Lowe’s in Marquette on Saturday, September 24 (meet in Lowe’s parking lot at 10:15 a.m.)

The purpose of going to Lowe’s is to follow up on a letter sent by the Marquette County Board to the CEO Robert Niblock requesting a chance to talk about the role of Lowe’s as a corporate citizen in our community and Lowe’s “response.”

If you are interested in  participating or have questions, please contact us at