League members may also request an opinion directly from the League via email. Please include the subject heading and number when making such a request.

1060. Legal note discusses timing for Board of Review in face of COVID-19 public health emergency. 5/2020.

1059. Article highlights recent court cases in which municipalities successfully defended against Dark Store and/or Walgreens challenges to assessed values. Written by Curt Witynski, Deputy Director for the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, Attorney Amy Seibel, and Assessor Rocco Vita for Pleasant Prairie.

1058. If a municipality adopts a new recycling fee or increases an existing recycling fee, there is no requirement under Wis. Stat. sec. 66.0602(2m)(b) that it reduce its levy limit by the amount of recycling fee revenue it collects.

1057. A business purpose is not required for an “agricultural land” classification for property tax assessment purposes. State ex rel. Peter Ogden Family Trust of 2008 v. Board of Review for the Town of Delafield, 2019 WI 23.

1056. In the context of the Tax Increment Finance (TIF) law, a local legislative body's finding of "blight" and a Joint Review Board's assertion that "but for" TIF the development would not occur, are legislative determinations that do not present justiciable issues of fact or law and the TIF law does not require the local legislative body or joint review board to itemize evidence in the record supporting those determinations. Voters with Facts v. City of Eau Claire, 2018 WI 63. (Published as a League League-L e-Newsletter. Find it online

1055.  Effective for 2019 levy, 2017 Wis. Act 243 allows a $1,000 increase in levy for each new residential dwelling unit issued an occupancy permit in preceding year if located on parcel no more than 0.25 acre and dwelling sold in preceding year for not more than 80 percent of the median price of a new residential dwelling unit in the city or village in the preceding year. Increased levy restricted to use for police and/or fire protective services or emergency medical services. Municipalities that levy additional amounts cannot decrease amount spent for those services below amount spent in preceding year.

1054. Legal comment by Michelle Drea, Wisconsin Department of Revenue, provides overview of Board of Review (BOR) duties and powers and summarizes recent statutory changes affecting time frame when BOR  meets and prohibiting Open Book and BOR's first meeting from being held on the same date. Highlights sec. 70.47(7)(aa) which allows BOR to deny hearing to property owner who does not allow assessor to complete exterior view of home, enacted after decision in Milewski v. Town of Dover, 2017 WI 79, but recommends allowing access to BOR and handling as evidentiary manner to avoid possible due process concerns.

1053. Discusses options municipalities have for collecting room taxes from short-term rentals arranged for online through Airbnb given that Airbnb is currently not licensed by the Department of Revenue as a lodging marketplace and need not comply with Wis. Stats sec. 66.0615(5), which requires licensed lodging marketplaces to collect room taxes from the occupants of short-term rentals rented through the lodging marketplace and forward those amounts to the municipality.

1051. In an unpublished decision, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that changes made to the Wisconsin Property Assessment to counteract controlling case law, Walgreen Co. v. City of Madison, 2008 WI 80, 311, Wis.2d 158, 752 N.W.2d 687), were ineffective in that regard and Walgreens/Madison continues to control how assessors must value Walgreens, CVS and other retail pharmacies for property tax purposes. See CVS Pharmacy, Inc. v. City of Appleton, 2015AP876 (unpublished, Ct. App. 12/28/16).

1050. 2015 Wis. Act 55 requires property tax bills issued in December 2015 and thereafter to include certain information that must be supplied in a section of the tax bill separate from the billing information. 7/31/15. The complete text of this legal Note is on page 312 of the September 2015 edition of the Municipality

1049. 2015 Wis. Act 55 reclassifies special assessments, municipal public utility charges and sewer charges that are delinquent as a special assessment or special charge instead of a special tax which will give counties the option of settling with municipalities on August 20 for these assessments or charges. 7/31/15. The complete text of this legal Note is on page 312 of the September 2015 edition of the Municipality.

1048. Overview of 2015-2017 state budget summarizes significant changes made to the room tax law by 2015 Wis. Act 55 which takes effect January 1, 2017. 7/31/15. The complete text of this legal Note is on page 312 of the September 2015 edition of the Municipality.

1047. Legal note highlights changes to laws governing Board of Review made by 2013 Wis. Act 228, first effective in 2015. 3/31/15.

1046. A nonprofit entity that is operated as a facility that is licensed, certified or registered under ch. 50 is eligible for tax exemption under Wis. Stat. sec. 70.11(4)(a), whether or not the facility is benevolent. Beaver Dam Community Hospitals, Inc. v. City of Beaver Dam, 2011AP1479 and 2011AP2693 (Ct. App. Aug. 23, 2012) (publication recommended). 8/31/12.

1045. Taxpayer complaint alleging improper, flawed, or illegal methods to assess billboard property is challenge to amount or valuation of property and must be first submitted to board of review, not circuit court. Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc. and Lamar Central Outdoor, LLC v. City of Milwaukee, Appeal No. 2010AP1809 (Jul 26, 2011) (publication recommended). 7/29/11. (The complete text of this legal note is on page 325 of this Municipality.

1044. Taxpayer complaint challenging city decision to assess billboard permit value, not just billboard structure, is challenge to amount or valuation of property and must be first submitted to board of review, not circuit court. Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc. and Lamar Central Outdoor, LLC v. City of Milwaukee, Appeal No. 2010AP1809 (Jul 26, 2011) (publication recommended). 7/29/11.

1043. There is no constitutional right to a jury trial in Wis. Stat. sec. 74.37 de novo actions to recover excessive assessments. 3/31/11.

1042. 2007 Wis. Act 86, which allows municipalities to opt out of sec. 74.37 de novo tax review of property tax assessments, violates equal protection because it creates a distinct classification of citizens (taxpayers in opt-out municipalities), and treats them significantly different than other taxpayers without a rational basis for doing so. The unconstitutional provisions of the Act cannot be severed from the remaining provisions and this decision returns Board of Review procedures in all counties to the procedures which existed before Act 86 was approved and returns the procedure for challenging Board of Review assessment determinations to the procedure which existed before Act 86 was approved, allowing all taxpayers the choice between traditional certiorari review and de novo review. Metropolitan Associates v. City of Milwaukee, 2011 WI 20. 3/31/11.

1041. The Uniformity Clause is violated when a municipality imposes a significantly higher property tax reassessment upon a property owner pursuant to a methodology that is different from the methodology used to assess comparable properties and does not reassess comparable properties by the same methodology. U.S. Oil Co., Inc. v City of Milwaukee, 2009AP2260 (Ct. App. Dec. 28, 2010) (recommended for publication). 1/31/11.

1040. An outpatient clinic affiliated with a nonprofit hospital and used as a doctor’s office is not exempt under Wis. Stat. sec. 70.11(4m). Whether a clinic is used as a doctor’s office depends on all the facts and circumstances of the case and particularly on the nature of the services provided and the way they are delivered to the patient. Covenant Healthcare System, Inc. v. City of Wauwatosa, Nos. 2009 AP1469 and 2009 AP1470 (Ct. App. Aug. 10, 2010) (publication recommended). 8/31/10.

1039. Declared but unbuilt condominium units are units for property tax purposes and town board of review acted according to law when it assessed the developer who was the owner of the declared but unbuilt condominium units for the property tax due on the units. Saddle Ridge Corp. v. Board of Review for Town of Pacific, 2010 WI 47, rev'g 321 Wis.2d 475, 774 N.W.2d 475 (Ct. App 2009) (unpublished op). 6/30/10.

1038. A claim that municipality’s real property valuation is not uniform and violates article VIII, section 1 of the Wisconsin Constitution cannot rest on comparison of subject property with only seven other properties in district, an insignificant number for such purposes, nor can it rest on comparison of single component of property value assessment such as land. Allright Properties, Inc. v. City of Milwaukee, (Wis. Ct. App. Mar. 10, 2009) (Appeal No. 2008AP510) (recommended for publication). 3/31/09.

1037. Third-tier real property valuation analysis that fails to consider income which appertains to land is not consistent with the Wisconsin Property Assessment Manual or case law and, therefore, does not present significant contrary evidence to overcome the presumption that the municipal assessment is correct. Allright Properties, Inc. v. City of Milwaukee, (Wis. Ct. App. Mar. 10, 2009) (Appeal No. 2008AP510) (recommended for publication). 3/31/09.

1036. Summarizes 2007 Wisconsin Act 210, which makes three changes relating to the penalty for converting land that has been taxed as agricultural land to a nonagricultural use. Act 210 also modifies state law concerning the notice of assessment change that assessors must provide property owners. 4/30/08.

1035. Summarizes changes made by 2007 Wis. Act 86 to the statute governing objections to property tax assessments. Changes include the Board of Review's authority to compel witnesses to attend the Board of Review, a requirement that the Board of Review allow sufficient time for a hearing, consolidation of cases by agreement, the interest rate allowed for excessive assessment claims under sec. 74.37, and municipal authority to enact an optional ordinance limiting the methods taxpayers can use to challenge the assessment in court. Robert Horowitz and Amie Trupke. 3/31/08.

1034. Under 2007 Wisconsin Act 190 the school levy property tax credit and the lottery and gaming property tax credits are distributed by the state to counties, which then will distribute the tax credit moneys to all municipalities. Communities receiving $3 million or more in tax credits may request the Department of Administration to distribute the amounts directly to it rather than the county. 3/31/08.

1033. In a decision that limited the scope of its 2004 decision in The Newark Group v. Wisconsin Department of Revenue, the Tax Appeals Commission held that waste treatment facilities on the premises of a manufacturing plant may be exempt under section 70.11(21), but not property used for other types of purposes or facilities. City of Green Bay v. Green Bay Packaging Inc., No. 06-M-146 (Dec. 21, 2007). The Newark decision resulted in legislative action, 2007 Wis. Act 19, aimed at narrowing the scope of the statutory exemption. (Note by Robert Horowitz and Amie Trupke, Stafford Rosenbaum LLP) 1/3/08.

1032. A child care facility located on land owned by Milwaukee County but subject to a long-term lease by the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center did not qualify for the property tax exemption under Wis. Stat. sec. 70.11(2) for local government-owned property because the medical center, rather than the county, was the “beneficial owner” of the property. In the case of government-owned property subject to a lease, “ownership” is not based exclusively on ownership of legal title but is based on whether the government body or the tenant is the “beneficial owner” of the property, which is determined by weighing all of the indicia of ownership of the parties under the facts and circumstances. Even though the county held title to the land the day care was built on, the medical center was the beneficial owner of the property because the medical center leased the land for 50 years, it was entitled to exercise exclusive occupancy of the property, legal title to the day care center was vested in the medical center, the medical center’s payment of $1.00 per year to the county as rent was a token payment, and the county was not involved in the daily operation of the day care center. Milwaukee Regional Medical Center, Inc. v. City of Wauwatosa,   2007 WI 101, 735 N.W.2d 156. 10/31/07.

1031. The personal property tax exemption provided by Wis. Stat. 70.111(22) for rented personal property only applies to personal property held for rental for one month or less, and does not extend to any property available for rental for longer periods. United Rentals Inc. v. City of Madison, Appeal No. 2005 AP 1440 (Ct. App. April 26, 2007) (recommended for publication). 4/30/07.

1030. Tax-exempt government lessor is the beneficial owner of leased land where it (1) gets not-inconsequential benefits from the property, and (2) has substantial control focused on preserving or enhancing those benefits. Where both aspects are present the property is exempt from taxation but where the benefit to the tax-exempt entity is more illusory than real, or where the control only advances the tax-exempt entity's institutional interest as distinct from enhancing or preserving the benefits from the lease, the leased property will not be exempt from taxation. Milwaukee Regional Medical Center, Inc. v. City of Wauwatosa,
2006 WI App 139 (petition for review pending). 7/31/06.

1029. City expenditure of room tax revenue generated by Wis. Stat. sec. 66.0615 room tax levy that does not exceed eight percent to redevelop brownfield site and construct convention center and adjunct restaurant adjacent to privately owned and financed resort hotel neither violates sec. 66.0615 restrictions on use of room tax revenues for "tourism promotion and development" nor Equal protection Clause of federal constitution where record unequivocally demonstrates convention center and the integrally connected restaurant is "a magnet for educational, recreational or business travel" and "[t]he City's objective of revitalizing blighted property and turning it into a travel destination is certainly a legitimate municipal purpose" and "the City was perfectly rational in choosing room tax dollars as the means of funding the convention center." 4/30/06.

1028 R1. Summarizes provisions of 77.52 and Wisconsin Administrative Code sec. Tax 11.05 which govern when gross receipts from sales by local governments are subject to or exempt from the Wisconsin sales tax. 1/31/12.

1028. Summarizes provisions of 77.52 and Wisconsin Administrative Code sec. Tax 11.05 which govern when gross receipts from sales by local governments are subject to or exempt from the Wisconsin sales tax. 1/31/06.

1027. A town lacked standing to challenge a village's amendment of an existing TIF district to include recently annexed lands because the town was not one of the entities identified by the legislature as having a legally protected interest in the formation and amendment of TIF districts (the TIF-creating municipality, and the county, school and vocational districts in which the TIF district lies) and thus lacked "a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy." Town of Baraboo v. Village of West Baraboo, 2004AP980 (Ct. App. April 28, 2005) (publication recommended). 4/29/05.

1026R. Legal comment provides general overview of the responsibilities and procedures for the board of review. 3/1/14.  

1026. Provides general overview of the responsibilities and procedures for the board of review. 3/31/05.

1025. Summarizes significant changes made to Wisconsin's tax increment finance law by 2003 Wisconsin Acts 126, 127, 194 and 231. Changes include, among others, authority to create new mixed-use tax increment districts (TIDs), an extension of maximum life and expenditure periods for TIDs, an increase in the amount of property that may be included in TIDs, and authority for towns to create TIDs for certain purposes. 6/30/04 Jeffrey Peelen.

1024. Discusses property tax claims, both for recovery of unlawful taxes and for excessive assessments, and explains the role of the municipal clerk, attorney, assessor and governing body in dealing with property tax claims. Robert Horowitz. 11/30/03.

1023. A benevolent nonstock, nonprofit organization that rehabilitates and operates federally subsidized low-income housing, is not entitled to a tax exemption under Wis. Stat. sec. 70.11 for properties it leases to low-income individuals because it fails to satisfy the lessee identity condition in the preamble of sec. 70.11. The lessee identity condition provides that exempt property which is leased only remains exempt from taxation if the lessee would be exempt from taxation under ch. 70 if it owned the property. Columbus Park Housing Corp. v. City of Kenosha, 2003 WI 143, rev'g 2002 WI App 310, 259 Wis.2d 316, 655 N.W.2d 495. 11/30/03.

1022. Medical clinics which a non-profit foundation acquired from a for-profit medical provider did not qualify for property tax exemptions under sec. 70.11(4) or 70.11(25), Stats., where the record showed that the primary activity at the clinics during the years in question was the provision of outpatient medical care in return for market-rate compensation, and the clinics provided those outpatient medical services in a manner that was indistinguishable from that used by for-profit providers. See University of Wisconsin Medical Foundation, Inc. v. City of Madison, Appeal No. 02-1473 (Ct. App. Sept 25, 2003) (recommended for publication). 9/30/03.

1021. Nonstock, nonprofit organization that rehabilitates and operates federally subsidized low-income housing, was entitled to a tax exemption under sec. 70.11, Stats., for properties it leased to low-income individuals where the organization used all of its gains and profits during the years in question for benevolent purposes and devoted all of its leasehold income to the maintenance and debt retirement of its owned properties. Columbus Park Housing Corp. v. City of Kenosha, Appeal No. 02-0699 (Wis. Ct. App. Nov. 20, 2002) (recommended for publication). Section 70.11, Stats., requires an aggregate analysis of an exempt organization's use of its leasehold income and with regard to the "rent use" prong under the preamble to sec. 70.11, the proper inquiry is not whether an individual property shows a profit, but, rather, whether the benevolent organization earns a profit from all of its leasehold property and fails to use the income for the specified exempt purposes. With regard to the "lessee identity" prong of the preamble, the low income individuals leasing the apartments need not be eligible for an exemption if they owned the property because it would be an unreasonable construction of the term "lessee" to apply it to the very individuals who are the objects of the tax-exempt activity. 11/29/02.

1020. Mortgage subsidies provided to owners of public housing are not determinative for purposes of establishing capitalization rate for income valuation approach but must be weighed with all other factors influencing value including mortgage terms and conditions, rents, expenses of the project, expected yield rates and the effects of any restrictions on such factors. Bloomer Housing Limited Partnership v. City of Bloomer, No. 01-3495 (Wis. Ct. App. Sep. 4, 2002) (recommended for publication). 9/30/02.

1019. To qualify for a total property tax exemption under sec. 70.11(4), Stats., an organization must show that it is a benevolent organization, that it owns and exclusively uses the property; and that it uses the property for exempt purposes. A non-profit benevolent organization operating federally subsidized housing probably cannot claim a total property tax exemption for apartments leased to low-income tenants because the organization would be unable to show that it exclusively uses the property. However, even assuming the organization can claim it is exclusively using the property despite the tenants' use of the property, the organization can only continue to claim the exemption for the leased property if the lessor (organization) uses all of the leasehold income for maintenance of the leased property, construction debt retirement of the leased property or both and if the lessee (tenant) would be exempt from taxation under ch. 70 if it owned the property. See 70.11 and Deutsches Land, Inc. v. City of Glendale, 225 Wis.2d 70, 591 N.W.2d 583 (1999). 9/30/02.

1018. A mobile home is "set upon a foundation" under sec. 70.043(1), Stats., when the home is resting for more than a temporary time, in whole or in part, on some other means of support than its wheels. This definition rests on a distinction between temporary and permanent, recognizing that the legislature intended that the permanency of the mobile home was important in making a distinction between real and personal property. Ahrens v. Town of Fulton, 2002 WI 29, Case No. 99-2466 (March 26, 2002), affirming 2000 WI App 268.

1017. Section 74.37(6), Stats., (1997-98) is unconstitutional because it violates the right to equal protection of the laws by treating owners of property located in populous counties differently than owners of property located in other counties without a rational basis. Nankin v. Shorewood, 2001 WI 92, overruling, in part, S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. v. Town of Caledonia, 206 Wis.2d 292, 557 N.W.2d 412 (Ct. App. 1996). 8/31/01.

1016. Discusses issues relating to assessments and Board of Review proceedings such as Open Book, prehearing requirements for taxpayers and the board, removal or recusal of Board of Review members, telephone testimony, ex parte contact, and the Board of Review's decision. 3/31/01.

1015. Under sec. 70.46(4), Stats., the municipal clerk must, before the board of review convenes, file an affidavit with the department of revenue (DOR) stating that the new board of review training requirement has been fulfilled by at least one member of the board within the last two years. 3/31/00.

1014. Municipal charges for towing and storing illegally parked vehicles are more akin to a penalty or fine rather than charges for retail towing "services" provided by the city within the meaning of sec. 77.52(2)(a)10, Wis. Stats., and therefore are not subject to the sales tax. City of Milwaukee v. Wisconsin Department of Revenue, Docket No. 98-S-102 (Wis. Tax Appeals Comm. February 28, 2000). 2/29/00.

1013. Describes a number of significant changes regarding property tax assessment appeals and board of review procedures which were enacted in June of 1997 as part of the Budget Adjustment Act, 1997 Wisconsin Act 237. The changes are effective January 1, 2000 and include new notice requirements, a requirement that some board of review members attend a training seminar and a provision allowing an objecting taxpayer to request that a member of the board of review be disqualified from hearing the taxpayer's appeal.

1012. Describes a number of important property tax exemption procedures beneficial to municipalities which were incorporated into the 1997-1999 Budget Adjustment Act, 1997 Wisconsin Act 237. These changes, which became effective January 1, 1999 codify the common-law rule that property is presumed taxable, require a property owner seeking exemption status for the first time to file a tax exemption request form with the local assessor by March 1, and establish sec. 74.35, Stats., as the exclusive method by which a property owner may challenge an assessor's decision to subject the property to taxation. See secs. 70.109, 70.11, and 74.35(2m), Stats. 12/30/98.

1011. Under 1997 Wisconsin Act 315, which took effect July 15, 1998, the deadline for the municipal clerk to transfer the property tax roll to the municipal treasurer has been changed from the 3rd Monday in December to December 8. Sec. 74.03(1), Stats. The deadline for delivering the property tax roll remains the 3rd Monday in December for those municipalities that have in effect a policy under which the municipality issues refund checks to persons who have overpaid their tax bill by December 31 within 15 business days after the overpayment is received. Sec. 74.03(2), Stats. 8/31/98.

1010. The due process rights of an objecting taxpayer are not infringed in hearings before the board of review by an assessor asking questions of witnesses presented by the taxpayer or by the assessor presenting his or her arguments to the board as to why an assessment should be sustained. Rite-Hite Corporation v. Board of Review of the Village of Brown Deer, No. 96-3178 (Ct. App. Dec. 9, 1997). Recommended for publication. (12/31/97).

1009. A municipal attorney may give procedural and technical advice to the board of review while also representing the municipality in hearings before the body without violating the objecting taxpayer's due process rights. Rite-Hite Corporation v. Board of Review of the Village of Brown Deer, No. 96-3178 (Ct. App. Dec. 9, 1997). Recommended for publication. (12/31/97).