October 7, 2015

Lawmakers Looking For Answers In Big Box Assessment Issue

INDIANAPOLIS -- A panel of lawmakers is grappling with a growing controversy over how property tax values of so-called “big box” stores – like Walmart, Kroger and Walgreens – are assessed.  Millions of tax dollars for communities around the state hang in the balance.

The big box assessment issue is complex, but roughly boils down to this: should big box stores be taxed according to their value as used by their current owner or by their value if sold? Counties – and county assessors – say it should be the former, the so-called “value in-use.” 

But the big box stores want to be assessed by how much they could get for their stores if they’re sold – typically a much lower amount.

A series of Indiana Tax Court rulings have been using the big box stores’ preferred method – so much so that Allen County Assessor Stacey O’Day says she’s stopped appealing.

“I mean, I have to pick my battles and I don’t think that I can spend tax dollars – my tax dollar money – on that knowing what I feel the end result’s going to be,” she said.

Real estate appraiser Tom Morlan says the assessment system is in desperate need of reform and wants guidance from the legislature.

“It’s not working very well," he said. "Everybody’s lawyered up and this has turned into ugly – really ugly.”

A legislative study committee could have a recommendation in the coming weeks for how the General Assembly should proceed on the big box assessment issue.

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