Frequently Asked Questions
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How does one figure their property taxes?
- Assessed value and taxable value are not synonymous terms.
- Property is assessed as of January First.
- Property reassessed every two years.
- Taxes are levied on a value determined by the auditor by applying a “roll back” percentage to the assessed value and deducting any applicable exemptions or credits. The “roll back” percentages vary each year.
|2002 Assessed value (residential class)
|roll back percentage (2002) (last year roll back 0.516676)
|roll back value (taxable)
|levy $32.38763 per thousand (varies with taxing district)
|homestead tax credit ($4,850 x 0.03238763)
|property tax (rounded to nearest even whole dollar)
How does the assessor estimate the market value?
The assessor generally uses three approaches to estimate the market value of your property.
The first approach is to find the properties that are comparable to yours which have sold recently. Local conditions peculiar to your property are taken into consideration. The assessor also uses sales ratio studies to determine the general level of assessment in a community, in order to adjust for local conditions. This method is generally referred to as the “market approach,” and is usually considered the most important in determining the value of a residential property.
The second approach is the “cost approach,” and is an estimate of how many dollars, at current labor and material prices, it would take to replace your property with one similar to it. In the event improvement is not new, appropriate amounts for depreciation and obsolescence would be deducted from the replacement value. Value of the land then would be added to arrive at a total estimate of the value.
The “income approach” is the third method used if your property produces income such as an apartment or office building. In that case, your property could be valued according to its ability to produce income under prudent management; in other words, what another investor would give for a property in order to gain its income. The income approach is the most complex of the three approaches because of the research, information and analysis necessary for an accurate estimate of value. This method requires thorough knowledge of local and national financial conditions, as well as any developmental trends in the area of the subject property being appraised since errors or inaccurate information can seriously effect the final estimate of value.
I disagree with my value. What can I do?
I would first recommend either looking at your property information on our Adams County Assessor website, or contacting our office, to see if we have everything listed correctly for your property. We will gladly provide a printout on your dwelling and/or buildings and explain how your value was determined. The Adams County Assessor's Beacon website is also a good place to find out how other comparable properties have sold.
If you still disagree with your value, there is an "Informal Agreement" period between April 2nd and April 25th. This process would involve a field appraiser coming out to look at your property to see if the value could possibly be adjusted so a formal protest with the Board of Review could be avoided. If an agreed upon value is reached, the Informal Agreement is signed by the aggrieved taxpayer and the value is changed for the current assessment year. This is merely an option; you may choose to go directly to the Board of Review with a timely filed, formal protest.
If no agreement can be made, or if you choose not to go this route, you may file a petition with the Adams County Board of Review. Petitions are available in the Assessor's Office or online at the county's web site or the Iowa Department of Revenue's web site. Petitions must be filed within the timeframe provided by the Code of Iowa. This is currently April 2nd to April 30th of any given year. The petitions are filed in the Assessor's Office.
The Board of Review will meet during the month of May. You may decide to have an oral hearing before the Board, or only decide to file your petition and submit any information you think is relevant to your petition. The Board will notify you by mail of their decision.
If you disagree with their decision, you may appeal within 20 days of the Board's adjournment, or May 31st, whichever is later. This date is usually May 31st. You may appeal to either the Property Assessment Appeal Board, or to Adams County District Court.
What qualifies you as the assessor?
Assessors are appointed to their position by a Conference Board consisting of the members of the Board of Supervisors, the Mayors of all cities, and a member from each of the school boards within the jurisdiction.
Assessors are required by law to pass a state examination and complete a continuing education program consisting of 150 hours of formal classroom instruction with 90 hours tested and a passing grade of 70% attained. The latter requirement must be met in order for the assessor to be reappointed to the position every six years.
The Conference Board approves the assessor’s budget and after a public hearing acts on adoption of the same. The assessor is limited, by statute, depending upon the value of the jurisdiction, to a levy limitation for the budget.
Why does my value change?
After properties have been appraised, the values are analyzed to ensure accurate and equitable assessments. Iowa law requires that all real property be reassessed every two years. The current law requires the reassessment to occur in odd numbered years. Changes in market value as indicated by research, sales ratio studies and analysis of local conditions as well as economic trends both in and outside the construction industry are used in determining property assessments.
If you disagree with the assessor’s estimate of value, please consider these two questions:
- What is the actual market value of my property?
- How does the value compare to similar properties in the neighborhood?
If you have any questions about the assessment of your property, please contact my office.
Doesn't the assessor raise my value according to the amount of taxes needed?
No, the Assessor raises or lowers the values of property according to the market value of real estate or in the case of agricultural land, according to productivity and CSR.
Assessments are set January 1st of each year, while the tax levies (tax rates) on these assessments are not set until July of the following year. (Example, the assessment notices from April 2021 were for the January 1, 2021 assessment. Tax levies for these values will be set in June of 2022 based on what the different taxing authorities budget in March and April 2022 for the next fiscal year of July 2022 - June 2023.)
The taxing authorities you pay property taxes to are listed at the bottom of your tax statement each year, along with their budget information and a breakdown of how much you are paying to each taxing body.
What is market value?
Residential, commercial and industrial real property is assessed at 100% market value. Market value of a property is an estimate of the price that it would sell for on the open market on the first day of January of the year of assessment. This is often referred to as the “arms length transaction” or “willing buyer/willing seller” concept. The assessor must determine the fair market value of real property. To do this, the assessor generally uses three approaches to value.
The first approach is to find properties that are comparable to the subject property and that have recently sold. Local conditions peculiar to the subject property are then considered. In order to adjust for local conditions, the assessor also uses sales ratio studies to determine the general level of assessment in a community. This method is generally referred to as the "market approach" and is usually considered the most important in determining the value of residential property.
The second approach to value is the "cost approach" which is an estimate of how many dollars at current labor and material prices it would take to replace a property with one similar to it. In the event the improvement is not new, appropriate amounts of depreciation and obsolescence are deducted from replacement value. Value of the land is added to arrive at an estimate of total property value.
The "income approach" is the third method used if the property produces income. If the property is an income producing property, it could be valued according to its ability to produce income under prudent management; in other words, what another investor would give for a property in order to gain its income. The income approach is the most complex of the three approaches because of the research, information and analysis necessary for an accurate estimate of value. This method requires thorough knowledge of local and national financial conditions, as well as any developmental trends in the area of the subject property being appraised since errors or inaccurate information can seriously affect the final estimate of value.
Agricultural real property is assessed at 100% of productivity and net earning capacity value. The assessor considers the productivity and net earning capacity of the property. Agricultural income as reflected by production, prices, expenses, and various local conditions is taken into account.
What are tax levies and assessed values?
There are a number of different taxing districts in a jurisdiction, each with a different levy. Each year the County Auditor determines for that district a levy that will yield enough money to pay for schools, police and fire protection, road maintenance, and other services budgeted for in that area. The tax levy is applied to each $1,000 of a property's taxable value.
The value determined by the assessor is the assessed value and is the value indicated on the assessment roll. The taxable value is the value determined by the auditor after application of state ordered "rollback" percentages for the various classes of property, with other properties always compare with the value on the assessment roll of the assessor's property record cards and not the value indicated on the tax statement.
What is a "rollback"?
The "rollback" is the percentage of actual value that is determined by the Director of Revenue and Finance each year on the several classes of property where the total value increase statewide, exceeds three percent for each class of property. The percentage so determined by the Director of Revenue and Finance is certified to and applied by the local County Auditor to all property in each class affected throughout the State. Percentages determined by the Director of Revenue and Finance are the same for all the assessing jurisdictions in the State.
Increases in assessed value of individual parcels of property, as determined by the Assessor, may exceed four percent within a jurisdiction. Agricultural property, except agricultural dwellings, are assessed on the basis of productivity and net earning capacity using a five-year crop average and capitalized at a rate set by the Legislature. The rate is currently seven percent. Tentative and final equalization orders are issued by the Director of Revenue and Finance in odd-numbered years on or about August 15 and October 1, respectively. The orders are sent to the various County Auditors who apply them to the classes of property affected if any.
What is a Family Farm Credit?
This credit is available to all farm operators who own and operate farm land, or farm land owned by a family member such as parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew. Cousins do not qualify.
Family Farm One-Time Filing
If a claim for the family farm credit is filed by November 1, 2001, or thereafter, and approved, further filing is not required provided the claimant owns the property on July 1 of subsequent years and the designated person actively engaged in farming the property remains the same.
If the ownership changes, the new owner must re-file for the credit and if the “designated person” changes, the owner must re-file for the credit.
The owner must notify the assessor in writing of a change in the “designated person”. Failure to do so will result in a penalty.
Contact the Assessor’s Office for more information on the complexities of this law. See Code of Iowa Chapter 425A.
What is a Homestead Tax credit?
Any property owner in the State of Iowa who lives in the property can receive a Homestead Tax credit. To be eligible, a homeowner must occupy the homestead any six months out of the year but must reside there on July 1. This exemption is a reduction of the taxable value of their property amounting to a maximum $4,850 or the amount which does not allow the taxable value to be less than zero Disabled veterans that acquired property under the provisions of the United States Code, Title38, Chapter 21, Sections 801 and 802 are allowed to claim a homestead credit that would be equal to the entire amount of taxes levied on the homestead property. The exemption is not allowed if the combined income of the veteran and their spouse, if any, exceeds $25,000 in the prior income tax year. Income means taxable income for federal income tax purposes plus income from any political subdivision exempt from federal income tax. See Code of Iowa.
I own and farm 500 acres. Isn’t there something I need to sign up for now?
You are probably thinking of the Family Farm Tax Credit. This was required to be signed up every year by October 15th until 2001. If you signed up in 2001 or after, you do not have to sign again. However, if you have acquired more agricultural land after you last signed up, you will need to sign an application for the newly acquired land. Applications can be filed anytime. However, those filed after November 1st will be applied to the next year.
What is a Military Exemption?
Any property owner who has been involved in full-time active duty during a war or conflict has been honorably discharged and lives in Iowa qualifies for a military exemption. The applicable times of either a war or conflict are spelled out in Section 427.3 of the Code of Iowa. Though the wars date back to 1846, the ones generally in use now are for World War I through the Viet Nam conflict. The amount of the exemption in taxable value for the most often used exemptions is $2,778 for WWI and $1,852 for any others after that. It is the responsibility of each person who qualifies for and wishes to receive a military exemption, to make application with the city or county assessor and also have their discharge papers (DD214) recorded in the appropriate county. Application is to be made prior to July 1 of the claim year. National guardsmen and reserves are not eligible for the exemption is their only active duty was for training purposes. On some rare occasions, there were guardsmen and reserves that were called into active duty other than training. In these cases, the person is eligible for the exemption. See Code of Iowa Chapter 426A.
- World War I
- April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918
- Army of Occupation in Germany
- November 12, 1918 to July 11, 1923
- American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia
- November 12, 1918 to April 30, 1920
- Second Haitian Suppression of Insurrections
- 1919 – 1920
- Second Nicaraguan Campaign w/ the Navy or Marines in Nicaragua
- August 27, 1926 to January 2, 1933
- Yangtze Service w/ Navy & Marines in Shanghai or in Yangtze Valley
- 1926 – 1927 and 1930 – 1932
- Marines/Several Warships Ordered to Nicaragua
- January 6, 1927 (withdrawn 1933)
- Navy & Marine Operations in China
- August 11, 1937 to July 1939
- World War II
- December 7, 1941 to December 31, 1946
- Women’s Air Corp. during WWII
- December 7, 1941 to December 31, 1946
- Korean Conflict
- June 25, 1950 to January 31, 1955
- Vietnam Conflict
- February 28, 1961 to May 7, 1975
- Dates changed in 1999
- August 24, 1982 to July 31, 1984
- December 20, 1989 to January 31, 1990
- Persian Gulf War
- August 2, 1990 to Present
- Anyone who served in the National Guard or Reserves for 20 years after January 28, 1973, and is now retired/discharged, now qualifies for an exemption
All wartime exemption amounts are $1,852 with the exception of World War I with a $2,778 exemption amount.
To get a copy of your DD214 contact the National Personnel Records Center at:
National Personnel Records Center, GSA
(Military Personnel Records)
9700 Page Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63132
I served in the military. Am I eligible for the Military Service Property Tax Exemption?
There have been a number of changes by the Legislature in recent years that have expanded the eligibility for the Military Exemption on property taxes. Individuals that may not have been eligible in the past may qualify now. Visit our Credits and Exemptions page for more information and/or contact the Veteran's Affairs Office.
I signed up for Homestead and/or Military credit last year. Why isn't it on my taxes? Do I need to sign again?
It will depend on when you signed the application. Applications must be signed on or before July 1st of the assessment year that you are first claiming the credit. If it is signed after July 1st, the credit is applied to the next assessment year.
Please remember that property taxes due are 18 months behind the current assessment year. For example, the current property taxes payable in September 2021 and March 2022 are calculated on the 2020 assessment year and values. If you signed up after July 1, 2020, but on or before July 1, 2021, your credit will be applied to the 2021 assessments on which the taxes will be calculated for the September 2022 and March 2023 payments. If you signed up after July 1, 2021, your credit will be applied to the 2022 assessments, which will be used for the September 2023 and March 2024 property taxes.
Homestead and military credits were at one time applied for every year. In the mid-1980s, this was changed to a one-time sign-up. However, you do still have to sign up if you move to another house, even if it is next door or across the street.