Big-box tax special

Montana State Roundup

Published September 1, 2004  | September 2004 issue

A proposal to impose a special tax on large retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target is being revived by the Montana Economic Developers Association. In voting last May to reintroduce the "civic responsibility tax" in the 2005 legislative session, the Anaconda-based organization said that "big-box" stores don't do enough to support their local communities.

Supporters of the tax say that siphoning off some of the profits of national retail chains would help locally owned businesses muscled out of the retail market by the big boxes' discount prices. Tax proceeds would be channeled into economic development efforts and a trust fund for projects such as civic centers and baseball stadiums. Opponents, including the Montana Retail Association, claim that the tax punishes large corporations, which would simply pass it on to consumers as a hidden sales tax.

The proposal would levy a 1 percent gross receipts tax on individual stores posting annual sales of $20 million; 1.5 percent on those with sales of $30 million to $40 million; and 2 percent on stores with over $40 million in sales. Farm implement and automobile dealerships would be exempt.

Phil Davies