Property Assessment Protests

property assessmentPeople often think that the County Assessor establishes the amount of their real estate taxes.  The tax levy is established by the local governing bodies that collect tax.  The assessor is responsible to determine the value of the property to which the tax levy is applied.

Spring is property assessment protest time in Iowa. Property owners who are dissatisfied with the assessed value of their property may file a protest with the county assessor at any time between April 7 and May 5.  Generally, this is the only time a protest can be filed.  If it is not filed in this timeframe, it will be automatically dismissed.

If the assessor decides an assessed value should be changed, a notice of the change is mailed to the property owner at the address on the assessor’s records.  This value can then be protested during the protest period.  The assessor does not send out a notice each year if the assessment is not changing.  Nevertheless, in odd numbered years, the property owner can protest the valuation that has not changed.  A taxpayer can easily determine the assessed value of their property by looking up the property on the assessor’s website.

Although there are several grounds for protest, the most common one is that the property is assessed for more than its fair market value.  To determine the fair market value, the assessor looks at sales of comparable properties.  The property owner generally needs to bring forward information on comparable sales to show to the Board of Review that the property is over assessed.  An appraisal is the best evidence.  However, it may not be cost effective given a modest increase in value, and it may not be possible to obtain one given the short timeframe to appeal if a decision to protest has not been made early.

A property owner unhappy with a Board of Review decision may appeal to the state appeal board or to the Iowa District Court.  The appeals can be costly propositions as it is necessary at that time to hire usually two appraisers.  Also, the service of an attorney is prudent.  As a result, particularly on residential properties, it is often not cost effective to file an appeal.

A good first step for someone unhappy with the assessed value of their property is to make an appointment to visit informally with the County Assessor.  The County Assessor will be happy to visit with the taxpayer to explain how the Assessor arrived at the assessed value.  After that conversation, an informed decision can be made whether it is worthwhile to proceed with the protest procedure and a possible appeal.

If you want to discuss protesting your property assessment, please contact Jack Ruesch at Telpner Peterson Law Firm, LLP today at (712) 325-9000.

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