Johnson County in Kansas thought it’d come up with a refutation to the dark-store theory. Rather than appraising commercial property based on the value of the land and value of the building, as is Kansas law, Johnson County Appraiser also taxed owners on the value of their building leases, which is not legal. Tax valuations went up 85% when the county used this formula in 2016. This led to about a $60 million increase in tax revenue in 2017.
Johnson County officials admitted that they broke state law. Then, a September of 2019 ruling by the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals (BOTA) stated that the county illegally raised the appraised values of Walmart and Sam’s Club. Undaunted, the county appealed the decision.
Not a good track record
Johnson County already lost its appeal involving Bass Pro’s property tax bill in April of 2021. The Kansas Appeals Court’s Board of Tax Appeals sided with the property owners, who argued that they lost millions of dollars because of illegal tax hikes from 2015 to 2017. The tax bill is now substantially lower and in keeping with Kansas law that requires “fair market value.” BOTA has consistently ruled in favor of retailers in cases like these.
Supreme agrees with the retailer
The state’s highest court agreed to hear Johnson County’s appeal of a case in 2022. In April, it ruled in favor of 11 big-box retail stores. Regardless of what activists in Johnson County does regarding appraisals, it has lost. Despite what a county believes or how they justify it, it cannot violate the state’s laws and get away with it.