All counties should have the same uniform presentation that contains the amount owed, compared with the previous year, and a list of all levies, broken down by the relevant authorities to provide taxpayers with a complete picture of their tax bill.
The Iowa State County Treasurer’s Association provides property tax information for all 99 counties. Taxpayers can simply click on their counties and enter their information to view their property tax bills.
The problem is that the statements are not uniform, varying by county. With transparency as a policy goal, all counties should follow a uniform reporting standard for property tax bills. Henry, Blackhawk, Dallas, and Mills Counties, for example, all have different property tax statements. Henry and Dallas Counties provide very detailed property tax statements that show not only the total amount owed, but also a breakdown by the taxing authority collecting the money. Blackhawk and Mills Counties do not have such breakdowns, so taxpayers in those counties are missing important information about how their property tax bills are allocated among taxing authorities.
Iowa has brought greater transparency to public education through its Iowa School Performance Profiles website. Iowans can select their school districts and find valuable information about how local schools are doing.
This standard should apply to property tax bills. All counties should have the same uniform presentation, following the model of Dallas County. A property tax statement should not just contain the amount owed, compared with the previous year; it should also list all levies, broken down by the relevant authorities. This approach provides taxpayers a complete picture of their tax bills and the way in which the money is allocated.
This piece is part of an upcoming comprehensive Iowa property tax tool kit.