Over the past several years property values have dropped significantly in many areas of the state. Unfortunately, in many municipalities the property assessments have remained at peak market values. If you believe your property tax assessment is too high, there are several steps you will need to take in order to determine if you are entitled to relief.
Step 1 - Do Your Homework – In Wisconsin, real property must be assessed at its fair market value as of January 1 each year. In order to determine if your property is over-assessed, you will need to determine its fair market value. A recent arm’s-length sale of the property is the best evidence of value. If you recently purchased the property in an arm’s-length transaction, and the assessment is higher than the purchase price, you are entitled to relief under Wisconsin law. If there has not been a recent sale of your property, but there have been recent sales of comparable properties in your area, you can use that sales data to estimate the value of your property. A recent appraisal or market analysis by a realtor will typically examine recent sales to arrive at an estimated fair market value.
Step 2 - Attend the Open Book Session -- Each municipality schedules a time during which the assessment roll is open for inspection, and a local assessor is available to answer questions (usually in early May). If you believe the fair market value of your property supports a lower assessment, or if you just want to view the assessments of comparable properties, you should call the municipality and make arrangements to talk to the assessor at the open book session. Often, the assessor will make adjustments to your assessment prior to completing the assessment roll for the municipal clerk.
Step 3 - Appear Before the Board of Review – If you cannot resolve matters at the open book session, you have the right to file a written objection and have the objection heard by the Municipal Board of Review. By law, all municipalities must convene their Board of Review within 30 days of the second Monday of May. The objection form is typically available from the municipality or it can be found online at the Wisconsin Department of Revenue’s website. At the Board of Review, the property owner has the burden of showing the assessor’s valuation is wrong and establishing the actual fair market value of the property. The Department of Revenue has instructional materials that will be available at the open book session or from the assessor that provide more details about this procedure. If you do not file a written objection to your assessment and appear before the Board of Review, your right to later challenge the assessment is severely limited.
Last Resort – Appeal - If, after the Board of Review makes its decision, you are still dissatisfied, you have the right to file a formal appeal to one of these entities: the Wisconsin Department of Revenue; the Circuit Court; or the municipality; requesting relief. There are strict timelines for filing a formal appeal which must be followed to preserve your rights.