How to Protest Your Property Assessment in Iowa

Taxpayers who believe their assessments are incorrect have a window between April 2 and April 30 to officially protest them.

All real property in Iowa is assessed beginning in January of odd-numbered years. Residential, commercial, and indus­trial properties are assessed according to their market values, while agricultural property is assessed according to its productivity and net earning capacity.

Iowans may interpret the large increases they are seeing in their assessments in 2023 as signals to expect increased property tax bills. However, one does not always follow the other. The assessor’s efforts to match the valuation of your home or business to its true market value are meant to ensure taxes are levied fairly. Ultimately, the assessor’s job is to determine the share of the overall tax burden each property owner is required to carry. If your property is overvalued, you are paying more than your fair share, and if it’s undervalued, you are paying less.

State law requires assessors to complete property evaluations and notify tax­payers of their properties’ new value by April 1 of the assessment year. Taxpayers who believe their assessments are incorrect have a window between April 2 and April 30 to officially protest them. Owners of property within counties that have been declared federal disaster areas have until June 5 to file.

If you think your property’s assessment requires adjustment, you should first contact your local assessor and make an informal request that it be changed. This approach can result in a written agreement to correct or modify the assessment or for the assessor to file a recommendation with the local board of review. If you are not satisfied with the results of the informal review, you may file a protest directly with the board. Boards of review for assessment protests hold their regular sessions between May 1 and May 31 each year.

According to Iowa Code Section 441.37, the grounds for appeal are:

  • The assessment is not equitable, as compared with assessments of other like properties in the taxing district.
  • The property is assessed for more than the value allowed by law.
  • The property is not assessable, is exempt from taxes, or is mis­classified.
  • There is an error in the assessment.
  • There is fraud in the assessment.
  • The property’s value has decreased in a non-assessment year.

In addition, property owners who find clerical or mathematical errors in their as­sessments may also file protests. Their local boards may correct the errors if the related tax bills have not been fully paid or otherwise legally discharged.

All appeals must be submitted in writing. Depending on their counties, some local boards of review allow taxpayers to submit electronic appeals. After an appeal has been discussed, the board sends the taxpayer written notice of its decision along with an explanation.

If you reach this point and are unhappy with the result, you can appeal to the district court or to the Property Assessment Appeal Board (PAAB). The PAAB is a three-member panel that holds hearings on assessment appeals from across the state. PAAB Notice of Appeal and Petition forms must be postmarked within 20 days of the adjournment of the local board of review or May 31, whichever is later.

In a similar fashion to the board of review, the PAAB evaluates the appeal and sends a written decision to the taxpayer. Taxpayers can further appeal their PAAB decisions to the district court within 20 days of the PAAB letter of disposition’s postmark.

Iowa has established this system because all property must be valued as closely to 100 percent of its market value as possible. Assessment equity means all taxpayers pay their fair shares of taxes to support county boards, city councils, and school boards.

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