As explained in the companion article, Should You Challenge Your Property Tax Assessment in Wisconsin?, you may investigate your tax assessment and determine that the tax assessor has placed too high a taxable value on your home. If that has happened, your property tax bill will be unfairly high. This article will describe how you may be able to lower that taxable value – and reap big tax savings in Wisconsin.
To successfully challenge the taxable value, you’ll need to establish at least one of the following facts:
If you’re convinced that any of these facts is true, consider the following strategy for trying to get your taxable value reduced.
If you have convincing evidence that the tax assessor has overvalued your home, he or she may agree to change the value. If that happens, you won’t need to pursue an administrative appeal. You can get contact information for your tax assessor from the online list maintained by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.
Most tax assessors are hard-working officials who take pride in their work, and do their best to treat homeowners fairly. It’s best to phone ahead for an appointment with the tax assessor or an assistant. Before your meeting, make extra copies of your evidence, such as tax assessor reports, related to the value of your home. When you meet, assume that the tax assessor is acting in good faith and is willing to consider your evidence. There’s no need for you to be argumentative or to complain about how property taxes have become burdensome. Just stick to evidence that warrants a lower taxable value for your home.
The tax assessor may change the taxable value on the spot but, more likely, will need a few days or weeks to look into the issue.
If you can’t reach agreement with the tax assessor, you can appeal the valuation. Here’s where to appeal and useful evidence for doing so.
The starting point for your appeal will depend on whether or not your community has a Board of Assessors. Milwaukee and some other cities have such a Board, but most Wisconsin cities do not. If you’re not sure about your municipality, call the city assessor or clerk to find out. If your community does have a Board of Assessors, you’ll need to start there by filing an Objection Form for Real Property Assessment, provided by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue . The Board, which consists of members of the assessor’s staff, may or may not talk to you directly. Once the Board reaches its decision, you’ll have ten days to arrange for a hearing before a different Board – the Board of Review – if you’re not satisfied with the decision.
If your community does not have a Board of Assessors, you’ll need to appeal directly to the Board of Review. At least 48 hours before the first meeting of the Board of Review, notify the Board’s clerk that you intend to file an objection to your assessment. Then, follow through by promptly filing the an objection form described above.
Call the Board of Review’s clerk for details on what additional paperwork you need to submit and the deadline for such submissions. The Board will conduct a hearing where your evidence will be considered.
In pursuing your appeal, several types of evidence may be useful, including:
At the hearing, you’ll probably have just five or ten minutes to present your case, so be succinct. Bring extra copies of your documentary evidence so that each hearing officer has a copy. Try to include a chart showing comparative sales prices and taxable values. You may want to arrive early so that you observe – and learn from – other people’s hearings.
If you don’t agree with the decision of the Board of Review, you have two options: You can appeal to the circuit court within 90 days after you receive the determination of the Board or Review. Alternatively, you can appeal to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue within 20 days after delivery of the Board’s determination – or within 30 days after the mailing date on the clerk’s affidavit if there’s no return receipt. You’ll probably need to hire a lawyer to advise or represent you if you plan to go to court.
To find an experienced real estate lawyer in Wisconsin, check out Nolo’s Lawyer Directory.
For more information on tax appeals in Wisconsin, read Property Tax Appeal Guide for Wisconsin Property Owners posted by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.