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Iowa Property Assessment Appeal Board

Protest and Appeal Grounds

This description of the assessment law and protest and appeal grounds is for general informational purposes. It is not a comprehensive summation of Iowa assessment law. It is intended only to provide a basic overview of assessment law and the grounds for protesting assessments. PAAB may rely on other sources in ruling on an appeal. This information should be not construed as legal advice.

General Principles of Assessment Law

The following are statements of Iowa law that generally apply to all assessment protests and appeal grounds.

Generally, the party appealing the assessment bears the burden of proving the grounds for the appeal by a preponderance of the evidence. If the appealing party "offers competent evidence that the market value of the property is different than the market value determined by the assessor," then the burden of proof shifts to those seeking to uphold the assessment. Iowa Code 441.21(3)(b)(2)

To be competent evidence, the evidence must comply with the statutory scheme for property valuation for tax assessment purposes. Soifer v. Floyd Cnty. Bd. of Review, 759 N.W.2d 775 (Iowa 2009).

For most properties, the assessment should be the property's actual fair market value. To arrive at market value, Iowa law prefers the use of recent normal, arm's length sales of the subject or comparable properties. Iowa Code 441.21(1)

  • Typically market value is shown by the sale of the subject property in a normal transaction, an appraisal, a comparative market analysis, or normal sales of comparable properties. 
  • Abnormal sales include, but are not limited to, family sales, foreclosure or forced sales, contract sales, discounted purchase transactions, purchase of adjoining land or other land to be operated as a unit. Iowa Code 441.21(1)
  • When sales of other properties are used to show market value, adjustments must be made to account for differences between the subject property and the comparable properties if those differences would have an impact on market value. Soifer v. Floyd Cty. Bd. of Rev., 759 N.W.2d 775, 783 (Iowa 2009). 

If a property's value cannot be readily established using sales, then other factors may be considered. Iowa Code 441.21(2). For a basic explanation of how a property's market value can be determined read What You Should Know About Real Estate Valuation.

Agricultural property is assessed based on its productivity and earning capacity. Iowa Code 441.21(1)(f)


While the assessment often allocates values to components, such as land and buildings, Iowa Courts have stated the “ultimate issue…[is] whether the total values affixed by the assessment roll were excessive or inequitable.” Deere Manufacturing Co. v. Zeiner, 78 N.W.2d 527, 530 (Iowa 1965); White v. Bd. of Review of Dallas Cnty., 244 N.W.2d 756 (Iowa 1976).

Protest and Appeal Grounds

You may appeal new grounds to PAAB, in addition to those set out in the protest to the local board of review. Iowa Code 441.37A. 

The following grounds are available to protest under Iowa Code 441.37

Two ways to prove:
  1. The subject property is assessed at higher proportion of its value than comparable properties.
    Maxwell v. Shivers, 133 N.W.2d 709 (Iowa 1965).
    • "In order to obtain relief upon the ground that his property is assessed inequitably, it is essential that the taxpayer prove (1) that there are several other properties within a reasonable area similar and comparable to his; (2) the amount of the assessments on those properties; (3) the actual value of the comparable properties; (4) the actual value of his property; (5) the assessment complained of; and (6) that by a comparison his property is assessed at a higher proportion of its actual value than the ratio existing between the assessed and the actual valuations of the similar and comparable properties, thus creating a discrimination." Id
    • Need evidence of the subject and comparables’ market values and assessments. Typically this is done by comparing prior year sales to the current year assessed values. 
  2. The Assessor has not uniformly applied an assessing method to like property.
    Eagle Food Cntrs. v. Bd. of Review of Davenport, 497 N.W.2d 860 (Iowa 1993).
Important notes:
  • More than one comparable is required to show inequity. Maxwell, 133 N.W.2d at 712.
  • The subject property and comparable properties must be located in same assessing jurisdiction. Maytag Co. v. Partridge, 210 N.W.2d 584 (Iowa 1973). 
  • In general, simply comparing assessed values or rates of change in assessed values is not sufficient to prove inequity.

Must prove:
  • The assessment is excessive and the property’s correct value.
    Soifer v. Floyd Cnty. Bd. of Review, 759 N.W.2d 775 (Iowa 2009).
    • For properties to be assessed at market value, you should consider normal sales prices of the subject property and/or comparables. Iowa Code 441.21(1, 2). 
    • Relevant evidence might include: Appraisal, sales listings, realtor analysis, recent comparable sales, pictures or inspection reports showing property deficiencies, or other evidence showing the property's assessment exceeds the value permitted under Iowa Code 441.21 or other provisions of law. 
    • In addition to other websites, sales searches can often be conducted from the Assessor's website. For jurisdictions using the Beacon service, this Beacon sales search video demonstrates the process for conducting a sales search. 
    • NOTE: In general, simply comparing assessed values or rates of change in assessed values is not sufficient to prove a property's assessment is excessive.

Must prove the property is:
  • Not assessable under Iowa law;
  • Misclassified under the Iowa Department of Revenue classification rules
    (see Iowa Admin. Code Rule 701-102.1) or other applicable law; or
  • Exempt under Iowa law.
Important Notes
  • The most common misclassification claim made to PAAB is that a property should be classified as agricultural real estate. If you are making such a claim, you should review the property classification administrative rules to determine what you must prove. You may also want to read prior PAAB orders on misclassification claims
  • The appellant typically bears the burden of proving the property is misclassified. But Iowa Code section 441.21(3) additionally states:  
    • "If the classification of a property has been previously adjudicated by the property assessment appeal board or a court as part of an appeal under this chapter, there is a presumption that the classification of the property has not changed for each of the four subsequent assessment years, unless a subsequent such adjudication of the classification of the property has occurred, and the burden of demonstrating a change in use shall be upon the person asserting a change to the property's classification."
  • For misclassification claims when there are multiple uses of the property, the focus is on present and primary use. Sevde v. City of Ames Bd. of Review, 434 N.W.2d 878 (Iowa 1989).

  • Errors in the assessment are typically erroneous mathematical computations or errors in listing the property. This can also include underassessment of the property. Iowa Admin. Code R. 701-102.20(4).
  • Must provide evidence demonstrating the error. In some cases errors can be corrected by asking the Assessor's Office to conduct an inspection of the property. 

  • If the local board of review, PAAB, or district court decides in favor of the property owner or aggrieved taxpayer and finds that there was fraud or misconduct in the assessment, the property owner’s or aggrieved taxpayer’s reasonable costs incurred in bringing the protest or appeal shall be paid from the assessment expense fund under Iowa Cocde 441.16. For purposes of this section, costs include but are not limited to legal fees, appraisal fees, and witness fees.
  • Misconduct includes knowingly engaging in assessment methods, practices, or conduct that contravene any applicable law, administrative rule, or order of any court or government authority. Iowa Code 441.9.

Please read and review PAAB's prior decisions to evaluate the substantive evidence required to support each ground. Appeals are decided on a case-by-case basis after consideration of the evidence submitted by each party. Court cases cited in PAAB orders can be accessed for free on Google Scholar