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Tax Breaks For Big-Box Stores Can Drain Money From Schools

Paying attention to how much nearby corporate retailers pay in property taxes may not be a priority for most school district leaders, but some policymakers think that could change soon.

Across the country, retailers—in particular big-box stores—are pushing back on how local governments assess the value of their properties with the goal of lowering their tax bills. Using a tactic known as “dark store theory,” retailers and their legal teams are increasingly arguing that the massive stores they operate ought to be appraised as if they were vacant or “dark.” When they succeed, the annual property taxes that retailers pay—which help fund public schools in most local communities—can drop precipitously.