January 12, 2012 | last updated April 19, 2012 1:53 pm

Walmart Tax Shift Means Higher Bills For Others

Walmart, which has stores in 13 Central Massachusetts communities, will be paying hundreds of thousands of dollars less in local property taxes in the current fiscal year.

The Arkansas-based big box retailer is trimming its bills by changing its tax filing status from a limited partnership to a corporation, which means it will no longer have to pay local taxes on its inventory but will instead have to pay excise tax to the state on its income, property and inventory.

Bob Bliss, a spokesman for the state Department of Revenue, said such moves are permitted and not entirely uncommon or new.

He confirmed that the state will receive more tax dollars from Walmart because of the change.

If Walmart made the change to save money, the amount at stake is not clear. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

And unlike local tax bills, Bliss said the amount Walmart will now pay to the state as a corporation is private information. As a result, comparing the company's previous tax situation in Massachusetts to its current one would be difficult, if not impossible.

As a corporation, Walmart will now pay an 8 percent excise tax on its Massachusetts income to the state. It must also pay $2.60 per $1,000 of inventory value to the state.

Though towns and cities with Walmart stores will receive smaller personal property tax payments from the company, the difference will be spread across the rest of the communities' tax bases to raise their full tax levies, assessors said.

Chris Pupka, the assessor in Oxford, where Walmart is currently expanding its more than 15-year-old store (which will result in higher real estate property taxes), said Walmart's personal property tax bill from the town will be approximately $70,000 less than last year's because its $5.5 million in inventory is no longer taxable.

"What happens is that the $70,000 gets split back across the rest of the taxpayers of the town through the levy," Pupka said. "The town is not losing money. It's just unfortunate for other taxpayers that they have to make up that difference."

The difference in Oxford will amount to about $10 more per year for the average property owner, he said.

In Northbridge, assessor Robert Fitzgerald said the town's 179,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter will pay $10,524 in personal property taxes for fiscal year 2012 compared to $94,290 the year before because its approximately $8 million in store inventory is no longer taxable by the town.

And in Worcester, where the largest Walmart Supercenter in New England was built in 2010, assessor William Ford said it's not clear what the difference will be because the new store didn't have any inventory during the most recent reporting period.

"The building wasn't finished as of Jan. 1, 2010, so there was no inventory," Fitzgerald said. "Had they not done this, all inventory in the building would have been taxable."

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