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Frequently Asked Questions

Q.

What are tax levies and assessed values?

A.

There are a number of different taxing districts in a jurisdiction, each with a different levy. Each year the County Auditor determines for that district a levy that will yield enough money to pay for schools, police and fire protection, road maintenance, and other services budgeted for in that area. The tax levy is applied to each $1,000 of a property's taxable value. The value determined by the assessor is the assessed value and is the value indicated on the assessment roll. The taxable value is the value determined by the auditor after application of state ordered "rollback" percentages for the various classes of property, with other properties always compare with the value on the assessment roll of the assessor's property record cards and not the value indicated on the tax statement.

Q.

What is a "rollback"?

A.

The "rollback" is the percentage of actual value that is determined by the Director of Revenue and Finance each year on the several classes of property where the total value increase STATEWIDE, exceeds three percent for each class of property. The percentage so determined by the Director of Revenue and Finance is certified to and applied by the local County Auditor to all property in each class affected throughout the State. Percentages determined by the Director of Revenue and Finance are the same for all the assessing jurisdictions in the State.

Rollback is an assessment limitation which is calculated each year to restrict the growth in cumulative taxable value across the state to 3% per class of property.  The 3% limitation in growth is not a limitation to an individual growth in assessed property value or to new construction projects.

Increases in assessed value of individual parcels of property, as determined by the Assessor, may exceed four percent within a jurisdiction. Agricultural property, except agricultural dwellings, are assessed on the basis of productivity and net earning capacity using a five-year crop average and capitalized at a rate set by the Legislature. The rate is currently seven percent. Tentative and final equalization orders are issued by the Director of Revenue and Finance in odd-numbered years on or about August 15th and October 1st, respectively. The orders are sent to the various County Auditors who apply them to the classes of property affected if any.

 

Q.

Why do values change?

A.

State law requires that all real property be reassessed or "revalued" every two years. The current law requires the reassessment to occur in odd-numbered years. Changes in market value as indicated by research, sales ratio studies, and analysis of local conditions as well as economic trends both in and outside the construction industry are used in determining your assessment.  During a revaluation year, if values were not adjusted enough to be more in line with the market (based off of the jurisdiction's median sales ratio study), an equalization will be ordered by the state.  An equalization could be applied every two years, of any class of property, to ensure that property values are comparable/equitable among jurdisdictions and complies with Iowa Code.

Q.

How will the revaluation impact my property taxes?

A.

Revaluations are essential to redistribute the existing property tax burden so that all property owners pay their fair share based on the market value of their property.  The total amount of taxes levied is completely independent of the overall assessment.

Q.

What is market value?

A.

The market value of a property is an estimate of the price that it would sell for on the open market on January First of the year of assessment. This is sometimes referred to as the "normal arms-length transaction" or "willing buyer/willing seller" concept.

Q.

How does the Assessor estimate market value?

A.

To estimate the market value of your property, the Assessor generally uses three approaches. The first approach is to find properties that are comparable to yours which have sold recently. Local conditions peculiar to your property are taken into consideration. The assessor also uses sales ratio studies to determine the general level of assessment in a community, in order to adjust for local conditions. This method is generally referred to as the MARKET APPROACH and is considered to be be an important method in determining the value of residential property.

The second approach is the COST APPROACH and is an estimate of how many dollars at current labor and material prices it would take to replace your property with one similar to it.  The cost approach is derived using the State's cost manual to determine the replacement value and is adjusted for every odd year.  An appropriate amount of depreciation and obsolescence would be deducted from the replacement value for aging improvements. The value of the land then would be added to arrive at the total estimate of value.  

The INCOME APPROACH is the third method used if your property produces income such as an apartment or office building. In that case, your property could be valued according to its ability to produce income under prudent management; in other words, what another investor would give for a property in order to gain its income. The income approach is the most complex of the three approaches because of the research, information and analysis, necessary for an accurate estimate of value. This method requires thorough knowledge of local and national financial conditions, as well as any developmental trends in the area of the subject properly being appraised since errors or inaccurate information can seriously affect the final estimate of value.

Q.

Can the assessment on my property be changed even if the Assessor has not been inside my property?

A.

Yes.  Existing data that is on file relating to the interior, MLS/sales data, as well as an exterior view, was used to establish the current assessment.

Q.

Some of my neighbors have told me the only reason for the reassessment or revaluation is to raise taxes. Is this true?

A.

No.  A reassessment or revaluation has no impact on the total amount of taxes collected.  However, it may change your property’s percentage share of total taxes collected to increase, decrease or, have minimal effect. (In some instances, when values go up, tax rates do go down b/c there’s more property value to tax to cover the municipal budget).

Q.

What do I do if I disagree with the assessor's estimate of value?

A.

If you disagree with the assessor's estimate of value, please consider these two questions before proceeding, as outlined below:

  • What is the actual market value of my property?
  • How does the value compare to the similar properties in the neighborhood?

If you have any questions about the assessment of your property, feel free to come in and discuss it with the assessor.

You may file a written protest with the Board of Review, which is composed of three or five members from various areas of the assessing jurisdiction. The Board operates independently of the assessor's office and has the power to confirm or to adjust either upward or downward any assessment.

A valid appeal to the Board of Review should not be based solely on the increase of your assessed value or the possible taxes you are paying, or will pay in the future.  It should be based on current market value or comparison to other property assessments.

Burden of proof is on the person who is appealing their assessed value, evidence of inequality should be researched and produced prior to filing a Board of Review petition - Examples include: a recent appraisal (1-2 years old; consider time adjustments to bring value to current market value), a realtor's opinion (in writing), other properties that sold nearby, or if your house has interior damage, an repair estimation from a contractor on estimated costs to repair, etc.

If you are not satisfied with the decision of the Board of Review you may appeal to district court within twenty days after adjournment of said Board, or twenty days after May 31st, whichever is later (sections 441.38 and 441.38, Code of Iowa). Or appeals to the Property Assessment Appeal Board may be taken from the board of review action within 20 days after the adjournment of the board of review or May 31, whichever is later (sections 441.37A441.38 & 441.39, Code of Iowa). 

Q.

What are the important dates to note for the Iowa Property Tax Assessment Cycle?

A.
  1. January 1 - Assessment date
  2. April 1 - Assessors complete assessments and notify taxpayers
  3. April 2 - 25 - Taxpayers may request informal review of assessment by assessor
  4. On or before April 25 - Following informal review, Assessor may enter into a signed written agreement with the property owner or aggrieved taxpayer authorizing the assessor to correct or modify the assessment according to the agreement of the parties
  5. April 2 - 30 - Taxpayers may protest assessments to local boards of review.
  6. May 1 - May 31 - Local boards of review consider protests. This time may be extended to July 15 by the Iowa Department of Revenue Director.
  7. June 15 - Local boards of review submit reports to the Director.
  8. July 1 - Assessors submit abstracts of the assessments to the Director.
  9. August 15 - The Department issues tentative equalization notices to assessors.
  10. September - The Department holds equalization hearings, which are held for public input.
  11. October 1 - The Department issues final equalization orders to county auditors.
  12. October 2 - 12 - Assessing jurisdictions may apply for alternative methods of implementing equalization orders.
  13. By October 8 - The county auditor must publish notice of the final equalization order by this date, and must provide notice by mail to the taxpayers if the equalization order results in an increase in valuation.
  14. October 9 - 31 - Taxpayers may protest the final equalization order to local boards of review.
  15. October 10 - November 15 - Local boards of review meet to hear equalization protests.
  16. November 1 - The Director certifies assessment limitation percentages to county auditors.
  17. November 15 - Local boards of review submit a report about the equalization protests to the Department.
  18. Dec. 1 - Feb. 28 - The taxing authorities adopt the budgets based on the valuations.
  19. March 1 - The county board of supervisors levies the taxes.
  20. July 1 - The county treasurer receives authorization to collect taxes.
  21. September 30 - First half of taxes are due.
  22. March 31 - Second half of taxes are due.