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By now most Iowans have (probably) paid their property taxes for the year. That payment was actually for the assessment that was done in 2021 because property taxes are paid in arrears. For purposes of this article, we are focusing on residential assessments and property classes (various classes of property are assessed differently and by different entities.)

Let’s start with how and when homes are assessed. Iowa law requires that all residential property be reassessed every two years on the odd-numbered year by the county assessor. So, all Iowa homeowners will have their homes reassessed next year.

When most Iowans talk about assessing a home—they are really talking about figuring out the market value.  The law in Iowa is that assessed value is market value.  The assessor finds the market value by analyzing recent sales but will also look at the replacement cost (the amount it would cost to rebuild the property) less depreciation. Assessed value should be as close to market value as possible.

One thing people often wonder is how an assessor knows that they finished a basement or added a bathroom without ever coming into a home. Assessors actually find out most of this information by looking at building permits that are filed with the local city hall or the county. Another issue people have is when they find mistakes in their assessments—like a basement that claims to be finished when it is not. When you find inaccuracies with your assessment, you should contact the assessor’s office. The assessor will review it and determine if the changes need to be made. An appraiser from the assessor’s office may need to walk through the property to obtain accurate data.

After considering all relevant information, assessments are sent out to homeowners by April 1 of the assessment year. Iowans will not actually pay the taxes on these assessments until September of the following year. If you disagree with the assessment you receive—there is a process for you to argue your case. In a reassessment year, a property owner may protest an assessment for one or more of the following reasons:

  • The assessment is not comparable to others with similar properties.
  • The property is assessed at more than its actual value.
  • The property is exempt from taxation.
  • There is an error in the assessment.
  • The assessment is fraudulent.

Completed protest forms can be received in your assessor’s office starting April 2nd up to and including April 30th. The Board of Review will then review your assessment and determine whether the assessed value is fair. If, after review, you still do not agree with the assessed value, you may choose to appeal the case by filing in district court or with the Property Assessment Appeal Board at the Department of Revenue.

In the future, I will cover more about the actual taxes Iowans pay on their homes and how a taxing authority comes up with the amount to actually tax a homeowner.

Author: John Wills


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