Wal-Mart: What, us pay taxes?

This year, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart ranked #1 in Fortune's list of the 500 biggest corporations in the United States, bringing in $351 billion in annual revenues.

But the retail giant doesn't believe it should have to pay much in the way of property taxes where it locates its stores, according to a new report by Good Jobs First. Their study finds that Wal-Mart "systematically seeks to minimize its payment of taxes that support public schools and other vital government services" by challenging property tax assessments.

"Wal-Mart ... drains vitally needed funds from communities by regularly challenging the valuation put on its properties by public officials," said Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First and principal author of the report. "When the company succeeds in one of these challenges, it diminishes the funds available to pay for education, police and fire protection, and other essential services provided by local governments."

Based on a large national sample of Wal-Mart stores and a review of all of its distribution centers open as of the beginning of 2005, Good Jobs First concludes that Wal-Mart has filed assessment challenges at more than one-third of its facilities around the country. At many facilities there have been appeals in multiple years. Overall, Good Jobs First estimates that the company has filed more than 2,100 property tax challenges nationwide.

The findings challenge Wal-Mart's attempts to portray itself as a "good neighbor" whose stores will boost the tax base of an area. As Good Jobs First notes, Wal-Mart's challenges often mean an area's tax revenue will go down, starving needed public services.

The challenges to income tax are on top of the over $1 billion in tax breaks and economic development incentives Wal-Mart takes in from state and local governments. To find out how many deals Wal-Mart has received in your state, visit here.