BARRY HYDE: Rejects Walmart property appraisal appeal.

Walmart has lost the first round of its bid to reduce its property taxes in Pulaski County.

County Judge Barry Hyde, sitting as the county court in considering appeals of appraisals of property for tax purposes, held that Walmart had failed to meet the burden of proof to reduce the assessor’s valuation of the property, and thus its tax bill in the county by about $4.5 million. The reduction would mostly be felt by public school districts, but city and county governments, libraries and Arkansas Children’s Hospital as well.

Walmart is attempting this theory all across the country. Its “dark store” theory is that its stores, even though currently immensely profitable, would have far less value for any other purpose if vacant and have also been negatively affected by Internet competition.

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Hyde found flaws in Walmart’s evidence on the value of comparable properties in setting its stores’ market value. Some of those properties differed significantly from the Walmart and Sam’s Club stores for which reduced valuations were sought, he said.

The Constitution requires that property be assessed according to its market value. The appraisal by the assessor is not presumed to be correct, but a challenger must prove by a preponderance of the evidence the correct valuation. Hyde said Walmart had fallen short.

The summary of his decision, which you can read in full here:

The decision is expected to be appealed to circuit court and ultimately to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Should Walmart’s theory prevail and be applied statewide, it could mean a $100 million hit on school and government property tax revenue. Taxes are applied to 20 percent of the appraised value of property. In the Little Rock School District, for example, the combined millages amount to about 1.4 percent of a property’s market value annually.

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