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Walmart Inc. has sued nearly half the counties in Colorado where it has stores, asking county assessors to lower the value placed on store equipment and thereby reduce the company's personal property tax bill.

The Bentonville-based retailer reportedly filed the suits Sept. 4 in 31 of Colorado's 64 counties. The suits claim that assessors' valuations don't adequately reflect depreciation caused by the wear on the equipment from round-the-clock use.

Walmart did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

A similar suit that Walmart filed against Pulaski County is now on appeal in circuit court after the court sided with the assessor in August. Walmart wants the assessed value of eight Supercenters and two Sam's Club stores cut about 48%, from $145 million to $74.3 million.

A Walmart spokeswoman told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in September that the retailer is "simply seeking a fair market value for the property taxation of our stores" in the Pulaski County case.

According to a report from S&P Global Ratings, big-box retailers are increasingly using aggressive legal tactics to cut their tax bills at the expense of local governments. Researchers call the practice the "dark-store theory," referring to opponents' contention that companies want to be taxed as if their open stores were vacant.

In Arkansas, 20% of the assessed value of a property is considered taxable. Various taxing entities, such as county government, school districts and other public agencies, divvy up the revenue.

In Colorado, as in Arkansas, tax rates vary by county. That makes it hard to determine how much money Walmart might save if it wins its lawsuits -- or how much revenue the counties stand to lose.

County officials told the Durango Herald that their attorneys across the state will likely band together to coordinate their defense. The newspaper also reported that Walmart has protested the valuations of its personal property at its single La Plata County store in previous years, and has never won an appeal.

Information for this article was contributed by Eric Besson of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Business on 11/14/2019

Print Headline: Walmart sues over tax assessments in Colorado

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