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Happy to be taxed as if he’s living in a ghost town

Big Box store appraisal worries

Johnson County Commission Chair Ed Eilert discusses concerns about an approach that big box stores like Target are using to challenge their county appraisals. That could dramatically reduce property tax revenues for schools and government services
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Johnson County Commission Chair Ed Eilert discusses concerns about an approach that big box stores like Target are using to challenge their county appraisals. That could dramatically reduce property tax revenues for schools and government services

I just had got a terrific idea.

I want the county to tax my Shawnee home — which my wife and I built in 1965 — as if nobody ever lived here.

As if this were a derelict building in a ghost town, abandoned these 54 years.

Hey!

How about giving my neighbors the same deal?

We can pretend we live in ghost neighborhoods of abandoned homes in a ghost Johnson County.

Our property tax assessments will sink like the Titanic. We can live fat on uncollected taxes that would otherwise go to schools, cities, county, libraries, community college, parks and more.

This may sound far-fetched, but that’s pretty much the deal which the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals on June 28 offered — not to homeowners — but to a select group of billion-dollar corporations including Walmart, Sam’s Club and dozens more of retail stores.

In the past, county assessors have based home and business tax assessments on actual sale prices of similar properties.

But Walmart lawyers now argue that the Johnson County assessor improperly added the value of their thriving business to the value of the real estate. This inflates taxes for successful retail outlets, the lawyers contend.

But doesn’t that theory apply to all kinds of real estate, family housing and all the rest? Neighborhoods of vacant houses — ghost towns — are not worth much.

Put in the people who live there, or customers in those retail stores, and values do soar.

Maybe we should agree with the corporate lawyers but take their argument one step further. Just as business occupancy of real estate inflates value, so does family occupancy of homes.

So let’s pretend that Billionaire Retail is all ghost town property, while pretending as I did earlier the very same for small business and our homes. That would plunge the tax base so low it would require much higher tax levies, tax rates, on all properties to decently finance schools and the rest.

No, no, no, the billionaires will say. That spoils everything!

Ghost town appraisals are just for us!

If everybody gets them, what’s the use of being a billionaire? Meanwhile, we ordinary no-excuse taxpayers’ struggle to sympathize with these proud people, unaccustomed as they are to paying full tax bills like the rest of us.

Some are the very ones already rewarded with Tax Increment Financing and the whole bundle of other incentives: Community Improvement Districts, Kansas Star Bonds, Industrial Revenue Bonds and more. Not to mention federal giveaways like the Capital Gains exclusion and the many terrific rich-guy deals in the 2017 tax cut bill. These are among the reasons that, since the 1980s, most gains in the American economy have flowed to the top 10 percent, or even the top 1 percent.

Now comes the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals telling us that for tax purposes these Kansas entrepreneurs should be regarded as operating in ghost towns and should be taxed at that low value.

My time-worn home is far more like a ghost town than their fancy shopping centers.

So if that board makes its decision stick, I want the same deal for myself and my Kansas neighbors. All of us should be taxed as if we live in ghost towns.

Contact Charles Hammer athammerc12@gmail.com.

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