Contesting Property Tax Assessments in 2009

February 18, 2009

Property owners usually wait to receive a notice of increased property tax assessment before thinking about contesting the assessment. Wisconsin law provides that an assessor must give notice to property owners at least 15 days before commencement of the board of review if there is any change in assessment from the prior year. If there is no change, there is no requirement to give notice of a new assessment. In a time of declining real estate values, property owners should consider objecting to their assessment even if it does not increase from last year.

Property is assessed in Wisconsin at its fair market value as of January 1 of each assessment year. For 2009 the valuation date is January 1, 2009. Assessments are required to be made by statute prior to the first Monday of April. All objections to assessment must go before the board of review which is directed to meet during the 30 day period beginning on the second Monday of May. Missing the board of review means that there will be no chance to contest the assessment. Property owners should not assume that assessors will reduce the value of their property to reflect changes in market conditions. A better approach is to identify properties which have lost value, and check the assessment of those properties and the date for board of review proceedings instead of waiting for a notice of increased assessment.

In many municipalities assessments are online, and notice of the date of board of review proceedings can be found on the municipality’s Web site. For other municipalities, a call to the assessor might be necessary.