The description of the assessment law and protest and appeal grounds on this website is for general informational purposes and is not a comprehensive summation of Iowa assessment law. This information should be not construed as legal advice.
General Principles of Assessment Law
The following are statements of Iowa law generally applicable 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).
Assessments are to be set at 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 demonstrated by the sale of the subject property in a normal transaction, an appraisal, a comparative market analysis, or normal sales of comparable properties.
- When sales of other properties are used to demonstrate 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. § 441.21(2)
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. § 441.37A.
The following grounds are available to protest under Iowa Code § 441.37.
Two ways to prove:
- The subject property is assessed at higher proportion of its value than comparable properties.
Maxwell v. Shivers, 133 N.W.2d 709 (Iowa 1965).
- Need evidence of the subject and comparables’ market values and assessments
- 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).
- 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 assessments or rates of change in assessments is not sufficient to prove inequity.
Must prove the property is:
- not assessable under Iowa law, or
- misclassified under the Iowa Department of Revenue classification rules
(see Iowa Admin. Code Rule 701-71.1) or other applicable law, or
- exempt under Iowa law.
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. 701-71.20(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, property assessment appeal board, 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 § 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. § 441.9.