Iowa Property Tax Appeals & Important Dates

The professionals at Savage & Browning recommend that you retain representation throughout your Iowa valuation review and appeal.

The annual savings associated with reductions in real property valuations can be quite large, into the tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, or more.

Knowledgeable and experienced attorneys, appraisers, accountants and other real property tax experts will greatly increase your chances of a reduction in valuation and help you navigate the complex appeal rights of the parties during appeals to the Property Assessment Appeal Board ("PAAB") or to the District County Court.

Iowa has a complex biennial system of tax appeals and only allows appeals on five narrow grounds. For over 50 years Savage & Browning have been appraising, accounting and negotiating real property valuation throughout Iowa. That's why we remain the top property tax protest consultants in Iowa.

iowa real estate property tax appeal services

We represent Iowa property owners in their county tax appraisal appeal. We have won successful real estate property tax reductions for our clients in Polk County, Lynn County, Scott County, Black Hawk County, Woodbury County, Dubuque County, Story County, Dallas County, Pottawattamie County, Warren County as well as in every corner of even the smallest Iowa county.

We often are able to find more compelling reasons for reduction and additional favorable comparable properties to support the appeal in the more urban areas of Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Sioux City, Iowa City, West Des Moines, Ankeny, Waterloo, Ames and Council Bluffs.

Fair Market Value by County Assessors

In Iowa assessors in each county are responsible for valuing all property by April 1 of each odd year. Properties are appraised in the most fair manner possible and are based primarily on actual value.

What is actual value and how is it determined?

By definition, actual value is means the property’s fair and reasonable market value per Iowa Code § 441.21(1)(c).

Typically, fair market value is calculated using one of three methods:

  • “Market value” is defined as the “fair and reasonable exchange in the year in which the property is listed and valued between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy or sell and each being familiar with the facts relating to the particular property.”
  • Use of sales price depends on availability of sales prices of comparable properties in normal transactions.
  • Comparable sales approach is the preferred method for valuing property. Though other approaches are typically analyzed and considered.

Iowa uses the following property classifications:

  • Residential
  • Multi-residential, including mobile home parks, assisted living, apartments with three or more dwelling units, etc. See Iowa Code § 441.21(13)(a). Prior to 2015, classified as commercial.
  • Commercial
  • Industrial
  • Agricultural

Iowa has a biennial system of tax appeals. See Iowa Code § 428.4 with real property is assessed every two-years in odd-numbered years. Note that property may be assessed in even-numbered years. Typically occurs after a sale, renovations, etc.

Appealing an Assessment

  • Step 1: Informal Review (Optional)
  • Step 2: Board of Review
  • Step 3 – two options
    Option A: Appeal to Property Assessment and Appeal Board
    Option B: Appeal to District Court
  • Step 4: Further Appeals
Step 1: Informal Review (Optional)
  • Local assessor is required to complete assessments by April 1.
  • Property owner or representative may contact assessor's office between April 2 and April 25 and request an informal review of the assessment. See Iowa Code 441.30.
  • During this time an Assessor may recommend a change to the Board of Review or the taxpayer and Assessor may enter into a signed written agreement modifying the assessment.
  • Consider what information taxpayer is willing to share.
Step 2: Protest to Board of Review (Mandatory)
  • Must be filed by April 30, unless extended due to disaster declaration.
  • Some counties accept electronic filings, but check with office. If mailing, keep a copy of the post-marked envelope.
  • Board of reviews meet annually in May to consider protests.
  • Ask to appear at Board of Review hearing.
  • Forms available, though check with County/City as some have slightly different forms. Generally available online.
  • Exclusive method of relief from alleged excessive or inequitable assessment.
  • Protest on one more of the following grounds:
    Assessment is not equitable compared with assessments of other like property in the taxing district.
    The property is assessed for more than the value authorized by law.
    The property is not assessable, is exempt for taxes or is misclassified.
    There is an error in the assessment.
    There is fraud or misconduct in the assessment.
  • Oral hearing
    Informal process, but an opportunity to present arguments.
    Board may ask questions to taxpayer/representative.
    Assessors office may be present and may make a presentation to the Board.
    Consider what information to share.
    Time is limited.

If the taxpayer successfully challenges odd-numbered year real property tax assessment, the taxpayer is entitled to a comparable adjustment to subsequent interim-year assessment, despite the fact that taxpayers failed to make timely protest of interim year assessment. Transform, Ltd. v. Assessor of Polk County, 543 N.W.2d 614 (Iowa 1996). However, if the valuation changes in an even-numbered year, another protest should be filed.

Protests relating to clerical or mathematical errors can be filed for previous years. Iowa Code § 441.37(2) and the Board of Review may correct clerical or mathematical errors for any assessment year in which the taxes have not been fully paid or otherwise fully discharged. Clerical or mathematical error is one of writing or copying so that the assessment figure recorded was not intended by the assessor.

Step 3: Appeal to PAAB or District Court
  • If unsatisfied with Board of Review decision, can appeal to Property Assessment Appeal Board (“PAAB”) or District Court for the County where the property is located.
  • PAAB is a three-member Board. Two members are certified real property appraisers; one member is an attorney.
    PAAB is generally less expensive and faster.
    No filing fee.
    More relaxed Rules of Evidence.
  • Appeals for the Board of Review must be filed within 20 days after the Board’s adjournment or May 31, whichever is later. See Iowa Code § 441.38(1). Compliance with deadlines is jurisdictional.
Standard of Review
  • District Court and PAAB hear assessment tax appeals in equity. There is no presumption in favor of the Board of Review.
  • Appeal must include the basis of the appeal and the relief sought. New grounds, in addition to those set out in the protest to the Board of Review, may be included and additional evidence may be presented. See Iowa Code § 441.37A(1)(b) and Iowa Code § 441.38(1).
  • Burden of Proof: Party challenging the valuation as excessive, inadequate, inequitable or capricious has the burden of proof. However, when the complainant offers competent evidence that the market value of the property is different than the market value determined by the assessor, the burden of proof shifts to the officials seeking to uphold the value. See Iowa Code § 441.21(3)(b)(2).

Step 4: Further Appeals

  • If appeal from Board of Review to PAAB:
    May seek judicial review from District Court under Chapter 17A. See Iowa Code § 441.37B. Unless permitted under Chapter 17A, cannot present new evidence.
  • If appeal from Board of Review to District Court:
    If unsatisfied with District Court decision, may file a Notice of Appeal to the Supreme Court.
    De novo standard of review.

Evidence at Hearing: Appraisals

Three Approaches to Value:

  • Sales Comparable Approach - Preferred approach, when available.
    Value depends on availability of comparable sales.
    Best comparable sales are geographically similar, close in time to valuation date, similar properties, etc.
    Appraiser typically adjusts the sales prices of comparable sales as needed to adjust for differences in subject property and comparable properties.
  • Cost Approach
    Analyzes the replacement cost for the property, less depreciation.
    Based on the principle that the buyer would pay no more than cost to produce a substitute property, with equal utility.
    Appraisers use cost guide, such as Marshall Valuation Service to determine replacement cost.
    Can be of limited value in older properties or properties with significant depreciation.
  • Income Approach
    Analyzes the property’s income producing capabilities.
    Estimates the amount an investor would be willing to pay to receive an income stream over time.
    Typically calculated by dividing the market-derived net operating income by the capitalization rate.

Ideally, use all three approaches to check each other. Values should be relatively consistent.


fancy seperator

Don’t delay. Contact Savage & Browning today and let us get a jump on valuing your real properties and determining the best cases to be made for assessment reduction.

With the uncertainty of Covid-19 shutting down many businesses, property owners have seen unprecedented shifts in cash flow from shuttered businesses or residential tenants who lost the ability to pay rent. Additionally, there are other considerations that can be presented to justify assessment reductions:

  • Equitability of the Assessment
  • Building Age and Type
  • Needed Improvements and Repairs
  • Vacancy
  • All Forms of Depreciation / Obsolescence
  • Highest & Best Use of Your Property

As a part of our long history, our team worked hard over the years to build and maintain positive relationships with the various assessment offices and other property tax professionals. These relationships facilitate appeal and negotiation since we have proven our credibility time and again.

Our Process

We start each engagement with a Real Estate Appraisal Review that includes:

  • Obtaining data from you, the client and taxing authorities.
  • We identify appraisal methods used in assessing properties and audit the results for accuracy.
  • We aggressively seek and secure refunds for past years tax over-payments when inaccurate assessments are identified.
  • We use cost, market and income approaches in preparing appeals for presentation to taxing authorities.
  • We review the assessed value of comparable properties to ensure fair and equal standards.
  • We use comparable assessments and calculations of cash equivalency values in presentations to taxing authorities.

If we determine that your real estate valuation by the county is unjustifiably too high, we go to bat for you throughout the entire Real Estate Property Tax Appeal Process:

  • We arrange for and conduct diligent, informal settlement discussions with taxing authorities.
  • When advisable, we file written protests with tax appraisal review boards for all unsuccessful appeals at the informal level.
  • We attend hearings and offer personal presentations of expert testimony before tax appraisal review boards to support lower values.
  • If appropriate, we recommend legal counsel and provide support services for continuing an appeal at the state level.

Throughout the entire process you will receive status reports and so you know where we stand in your property tax valuation reduction appeal:

  • A preliminary tax savings report using estimated tax rates.
  • A final tax savings report using actual tax rates and identifying savings by property.
  • A tax comparison report on a property-by-property basis including current and prior year's values and taxes.
  • A narrative report pertaining to research, analysis, and negotiation activity.

Once we have established a familiarity with your property we are prepared to Administer your real estate property tax valuation on an annual basis, always looking for opportunities to appeal and reduce valuations or mitigate increases in valuation.

On your behalf we will:

  • Respond to inquiries from taxing authorities.
  • Provide tax estimates for accrual and budgeting purposes.
  • On a timely basis, obtain, audit and forward tax bills to clients with an approval letter.
  • Seek and secure corrected tax bills where inaccuracies are discovered.
  • Upon request, provide clients with copies of parcel maps from taxing authorities.
  • Verify the property tax proration on escrow closing statements for acquisitions or dispositions.

Important Dates

Jan 01Assessment Date
Mar 31Tax Bills Due 2nd half installment
Apr 15 Value Notices Issued 30 days after notices are issued; varies by jurisdiction
Apr – MayAppeal Deadline Varies By Jurisdiction
Aug 15 Tax Bills Issued 2nd half Installment
Sep 30 Tax Bills Due 1st half installment

Personal Property Exempt

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Contact us today to learn more about how we reduce the single highest expense for most income producing properties.