Boone County Council President Elise Nieshalla announces Tuesday that the Hendricks County Council will give Boone County $25,000 for legal costs in a fight against a property tax loophole. Staff photo by Maria Flora
Boone County Council President Elise Nieshalla announces Tuesday that the Hendricks County Council will give Boone County $25,000 for legal costs in a fight against a property tax loophole. Staff photo by Maria Flora
Hendricks County will give $25,000 toward Boone County’s legal fees in fighting against companies that would use the dark box tax loophole to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

Boone County Council President Elise Nieshalla announced Dec. 14 that the Hendricks County Council unanimously passed a motion to offset Boone County’s legal costs in a fight that has benefited every county in the state.

Big-box stores use the dark-box loophole to argue their stores should be assessed at their value if they were empty, instead of at the assessed value the county places on them as fully functioning. The stores typically ask for a 30% or more discount.

That portion of the tax burden then shifts to homeowners, who are unable to appeal their tax rate as if their homes were boarded up and empty, as the big stores can.

Boone County in 2019 appealed Meijer Store Ltd.’s tax appeal case filed with the Indiana Tax Court and won in January 2021. The tax court, in fact, found that the store was valued at even more than Boone County Assessor Lisa Garoffolo’s assessment.

Boone County is one of the few counties to fight the dark box issue, spending more than $744,000 to date. It has support from several other counties, the Indiana Association of Counties, and now Hendricks County, home to numerous big-box stores.

“That was the tough part of this is making the decision to really fight to win, because we had seen other counties lose,” Nieshalla said in January. “We decided to invest the money.”

“The big-box stores have deep pockets,” Boone County Councilman Don Lamb said. “Essentially, they just keep going until you quit fighting.”

Boone County isn’t done fighting.

“The House and Senate will have to pass bills to close this loophole,” Nieshalla said. “This is a priority.”

County officials from around the state, plus associations, will lobby the Indiana legislature to fix the loophole on the strength of Boone County’s win.

“Hendricks County is cheering us on in our fight for fair taxation,” Nieshalla said.
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