Since most state and local governments in the U.S. are not required to disclose giving Big Box Stores like Wal-Mart economic development subsidies it’s hard to find out who receives them.
It’s not widely known that Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retailer and corporation and that its aggressive U.S. expansion has been financed by taxpayers through economic development subsidies.
Wal-Mart’s economic development subsidies include infrastructure assistance where taxpayers pay for the construction of access roads, water and sewer lines. Property tax breaks where governments forgo all or part of Wal-Mart’s property tax revenues. Some stores avoid taxes by allowing the store to remain with the public authorities making them tax-exempt.
Other economic development subsidies include reduced utility rates, low interest financing, tax-exempt bond financing, job training grants, providing land at reduced or no cost and state tax increment financing (TIF). In tax increment financing the store keeps all or part of the sales or property taxes. The “tax increment” may be transferred to Wal-Mart as it is collected or in TIF bonds. TIFs were originally intended to help revitalize blighted areas.
Others include sales tax credits, exemptions or rebates, property tax abatements, state tax credits or corporate income tax credits.
Good Jobs First recently discovered that once the store has been in operation for awhile Wal-Mart frequently challenges the land tax assessment value often leading to reduced property values. The high volume of law suites handled at the corporate level suggests that Wal-Mart is systematically challenging property tax assessments to increase its after tax profits.
Many analysts say big-box retail stores more often depress economic growth as they take revenue from existing merchants and may put them out of business. Some Wal-Mart’s pay low wages with no benefits, destroy as many jobs as they create and influence labor practices.
Whether the new Wal-Mart is an asset or liability to Monroe County, Georgia’s citizens depends on Wal-Mart’s contract.