New law helps municipalities tackle “dark store theory” issue

Matlack bill to protect property tax payers now law

Thu, 04/28/2022 - 4:15pm

AUGUSTA — A bill from Rep. Ann Matlack, D-St. George, which clarifies state law for municipal assessors and property owners and improves the fairness of valuations across the state became law earlier this week.

In Maine, municipal assessors are responsible for determining the value of properties to base property taxes on, and property owners have the right to appeal the determined value.

In recent years, some large corporations have begun using this appeal process to advocate for property values that are significantly less than municipalities have determined their value to be. Referred to as the “dark store” theory, big box retailers appeal their assessed property value based on comparisons with stores that have closed and sold for much less than their previous value.

“Large corporations are taking their newly built properties and comparing their value to closed down and abandoned stores,” said Matlack. “This puts hundreds of thousands of property tax dollars at stake. These big box stores want the benefits of municipal services, such as police and fire protection, sewer and water services and well-maintained roads, while shifting their share of the cost onto the rest of the property tax payers. This law ensures that local assessors have the tools they need to support their determination of just value for these properties.”

Written in consultation with Maine assessors, LD 1129 gives Maine municipalities the ability to clarify what makes a similar property comparable.


For more on this issue, read these two stories originally published by The Maine Monitor and republished by the Penobscot Bay Pilot: 

‘Dark store’ theory: Large retailers push to cut millions in property taxes

Kerry Leichtman, state tax review board hope for turnaround amid backlog