Vol. 84, No. 7, July 2011
The overall value of real estate in the United States has declined by 30 percent since the 2006 peak.1 In Wisconsin, from 2009 to 2010 total equalized property values2 experienced the largest drop in more than 50 years.3 This was only the third time in which total values for a year fell outright statewide. Between 1997 and 2007, total property value had increased an average of almost 8 percent per year. Because property taxes are partly determined by an assessment of a property’s value, it has been estimated that up to 60 percent of the nation’s taxable property may be over assessed.4
Real estate prices are not expected to return to their 2006 level anytime soon. The latest figures from the Case-Shiller home price index, showing a fifth straight month of price decreases, have raised concern about the possibility of a “double-dip” in the housing market in 2011.5 Although some analysts had predicted that housing would start to recover in 2011, analysts are now predicting a further 5 percent to 20 percent price decline.6 The average sale price in the four-county metro Milwaukee area fell from $240,552 in 2007 to $200,695 in 2009.7
This decline has led to a reported increase in taxpayers challenging their property tax assessments nationwide.8 Hard numbers are hard to come by, but one observer called the increase “a flood.”9 Sacramento County (Calif.) had 5,138 appeals in 2008 and 11,909 appeals in 2009. Broward County (Fla.) had 4,930 appeals in 2008 and 8,800 appeals in 2009. It has been reported that the Cook County (Ill.) Board of Review received a record 430,000 appeals in 2010.10 Although numbers on the results are even harder to come by, there are indications that many taxpayers in those locations have been successful in getting their assessments reduced.
Wisconsin attorneys should know how to bring an appeal so that the taxpayer’s assessment fairly reflects the property’s actual value. The first part of this article explains the annual-assessment procedure. The second part presents a general summary of assessment law. The third part explains the steps in the residential-tax-appeal process. The final part discusses results that taxpayers who go through the steps have experienced in three Wisconsin communities.
The Annual Property Tax Assessment
Before a taxpayer decides whether to challenge an assessment, the taxpayer should be familiar with key terms and understand what an assessment is – and what it is not. Even if a taxpayer is successful in getting an assessment reduced, the taxpayer might not ultimately pay less in taxes. The assessment is only one variable, but it may be the one of most consequence to an individual taxpayer.
It is important to understand the relationship between taxes and property assessments. A common misconception is that an increase in a property tax assessment means a property tax increase.11 Given the widespread misperception, one must always keep in mind the following: A rising or declining assessment does not necessarily mean higher or lower taxes. One exceedingly simplified example describes the relationship between assessments and taxes.
Example. Imagine a community of two residents. Each resident owns a house valued at $100,000. The town’s tax levy is $2,000, which is the amount needed to cover its expenses. Because each resident owns 50 percent of the total property in the community, each resident pays 50 percent of the levy, giving each of the two residents a tax bill of $1,000. If property values in the town go up 10 percent, then each property is assessed at $110,000. The amount each resident pays in taxes, however, remains the same. Each resident still owns 50 percent of the total property in the town and must pay 50 percent of the $2,000 tax levy, or $1,000. What if values start to decline? The two residents’ properties might drop to a value of $80,000 each, but because each resident still owns 50 percent of the property, and the town still needs to collect $2,000, each resident will continue to see a $1,000 property tax bill.
To contain costs, most municipalities do not perform a revaluation every year. A revaluation sets all properties at market value as of January 1 and establishes the relationships among the values of all properties. Those relationships remain until the next revaluation. If the taxpayer’s community is not conducting a revaluation for a particular year, then the taxpayer’s assessment will likely not be adjusted if the only change occurring is the same market adjustment that the rest of the community is experiencing. The revaluation process adjusts every property’s value to reflect the selling price of properties that have sold.
Attorneys whose practices require the use or review of appraisal reports should be familiar with the approaches assessors use to set values and the issues the approaches present.
Tax assessors set values according to Wis. Stat. chapter 70. It is the assessor’s duty to discover, list, and value all taxable real and personal property within the taxation district and annually report such information in an assessment roll for the district. Section 70.32(1) of the Wisconsin Statutes governs the valuation of real property for the purposes of taxation and requires an assessor to value real property at the “full value” that ordinarily could be obtained at a private sale. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has construed, for purposes of real property assessment, the statutory phrase full market value to mean fair market value, which is the amount the property will sell for upon arm’s-length negotiation in the open market, between an owner willing but not obligated to sell and a buyer willing but not obligated to buy.12
Case law interpreting this statute has consistently held that the statute sets forth a tri-level hierarchy. The statute essentially codified what is commonly referred to as the “Markarian hierarchy,” established in State ex rel. Markarian v. City of Cudahy.13 The assessor must use a recent sale of the property, if available, to assess value. If there is no recent sale, the assessor must use recent comparable sales.14 The assessor proceeds to the third level or other appraisal approaches only if the first two levels are not available. It is erroneous to assess property using the third level “when the market value is established by a fair sale of the property in question or like property.”15
Thomas J. McAdams, U.W. 1987, LLM – Taxation DePaul 1997, is a commissioner for the Wisconsin Tax Appeals Commission, Madison. He previously was an assistant district attorney and an associate in the taxation department at Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren SC.
Although appraisers use techniques such as the sales comparison approach to increase objectivity and accuracy, appraising is an imperfect process.16 The accuracy of any appraisal is subject to certain variables, including the availability and reliability of information. The potential for inaccuracy in preparing real estate appraisals is especially present in the sales comparison approach, in which the selection and adjustment of comparables provide baseline values for the final appraisal. The utility of this approach is constrained by the availability of comparable sales data. If no recent comparable sales data are available, appraisers cannot use the approach. Also, even if sufficient comparable sales data are available, the data may not be reliable. For example, if the sale of a comparable property is not an arm’s-length transaction, the sale price will not indicate the actual market value of the property. In addition, the seller may be forced to sell, or there may be issues with the property not apparent to someone merely looking at the purchase price. An appraisal founded on these types of transactions will not reflect the property’s market value. Thus, when information is limited or unreliable, even appraisals prepared by the best appraisers are subject to inaccuracy.
In addition to limitations in the availability and reliability of information, the judgment of individual appraisers also can have an impact on real estate appraisals. Within the sales comparison approach, the selection of comparable-property sales and the evaluation of adjustment features are products of each appraiser’s knowledge and experience in assessing similarity and value. As such, an appraiser’s subjective evaluations can directly influence the final determination of a property’s value. For example, two independent appraisers looking at the same property might select dissimilar comparables. Also, even if two appraisers select the same group of comparables, each appraiser might arrive at different adjustment values or select different adjustment features altogether. In either case, the appraisers likely would arrive at separate final values, one or perhaps both of which would be inaccurate. Given the subjectivity that is part of the appraisal process, there are numerous legitimate reasons for inaccuracy in real estate appraisals. Because an appraisal is an opinion of value, sometimes based on less-than-perfect information, a margin of error must be assumed.17
Appraising in a market in which values are declining is especially troublesome.18 First, a generation of appraisers has been dealing with rising values. For many, the present situation is the first experience with a declining market. Second, most residential appraisers are not mathematicians, statisticians, or economists. Finally, there is no one authoritative source for information regarding declining markets.19
The Appeal Process
A taxpayer who challenges a residential assessment faces choices as to forum and type of action. This section examines each of the levels in the appeal process.20 First, the taxpayer should informally approach the assessor. The second step is to go to the Board of Assessors, if there is one. The next step is the Board of Review. Finally, the taxpayer can seek relief from the Department of Revenue (DOR) or the circuit court.21
1) The Assessor. Property tax assessments are essentially one tax assessor’s estimate of market value. Because assessed market values are subjective, they can be informally questioned and formally challenged. Taxpayers should always attempt to discuss questions they have with the assessor.22 The formal objection process should not be pursued unless efforts to resolve disagreements informally have been exhausted. When communicating with an assessor, the taxpayer will want to provide as much helpful information about the property as possible. Providing information and data to an assessor is advantageous because the taxpayer often will achieve better results if the assessor uses the information the taxpayer provides.
Several types of information may be helpful. First, the taxpayer should collect evidence of recent sales in the area. Websites maintained by real estate companies are a good place to start, and the assessor’s office might have a database of sales in the area. The taxpayer should aim to collect data on three to five properties. The more similar the properties are in style, size, and age, the better. Significant differences, such as location on a busy street, should not be ignored. Second, consideration should be given to providing the assessor with the taxpayer’s own professionally prepared appraisal. Third, information as to the amount of insurance coverage could be provided to the assessor.23
The taxpayer needs to be prepared to speak with the assessor in the technical terms of appraisal. The taxpayer should have an understanding of the methods of valuation and the rules that apply to property tax appraisal. If the taxpayer cannot convince the assessor to change the valuation of the property, there are other possible steps the taxpayer may take, as discussed below.
2) Board of Assessors. The city of Milwaukee and cities of the second class that choose to do so have a board of assessors.24 In fact, most Wisconsin cities do not have a board of assessors. If a city does have a board, the board is the first formal level for appealing a home’s assessment.
The board of assessors investigates and acts on assessment complaints. The board of assessors is an intermediate step in the appeal process created to ease the burden on the district’s board of review. To initiate a board of assessor review, the property owner must file a written objection form by the third Monday in May. Depending on the nature of the complaint, the board may review the assessor’s records, talk to the taxpayer directly, and inspect the property.
A member of the assessor’s staff will report his or her findings to the board of assessors. The board will then inform the taxpayer by mail whether it concurs with the taxpayer’s proposed value. A board of assessors typically does not hold a formal hearing. The taxpayer should sign and return the form the board provides within 10 days, indicating whether the taxpayer accepts the board’s determination or prefers to go to a hearing before the board of review.
3) Board of Review. The primary form of assessment review in Wisconsin is at the board-of-review level. For most Wisconsin homeowners, this is the first formal step. This section discusses the structure of a board of review and the rules and procedures that govern the board’s review.
Structure. A board of review often consists of municipal officials and is a quasi-judicial body. Its membership typically consists of individuals without legal or technical backgrounds. In cities of the first class,25 and in all other municipalities that pass a requisite ordinance, the board of review may consist of five to nine residents of the municipality.
Rules and Procedures. Boards of review first meet for a particular year at any time during the 30 days after the second Monday in May. A taxpayer commences an appeal by completing the municipality’s form of objection and timely filing it with the board’s clerk. The board may require the use of a form approved by the DOR, and the board must require that any forms used include the taxpayer’s proposed valuations. The board then sets a hearing date for each properly filed objection and provides at least 48 hours’ notice to the homeowner or the homeowner’s representative. Wis. Stat. section 70.47(3)(a)2. requires each board of review’s first meeting to last at least two hours, during which time taxpayers can appear and examine the assessment roll. Each written objection received during the first two hours of the meeting must be scheduled for a subsequent hearing. Wis. Stat. section 70.47(7) requires that an objection be to the aggregate value of the land and improvements and requires full disclosure before the board. The statute contains provisions allowing for removal of board members believed to hold a personal bias.
Once the assessor has valued the property, posted the values on the assessment roll, and signed the affidavit attached to the assessment roll, the values must be accepted as correct unless the testimony of sworn witnesses and the evidence they present show otherwise. The board of review is responsible for raising and lowering any incorrect valuations and correcting any errors in the roll.26 The board of review’s function is not to value properties but to decide the validity of the facts presented under oath before it.
Having the burden of proof, the homeowner presents his or her case first. The board then can examine under oath any other person the board believes has knowledge of the property value. Under Wis. Stat. section 70.47(8)(d), the board can compel the production of documents related to the property’s value. The assessor’s valuation is presumed correct and the presumption survives unless credible evidence overturns it. The rules of evidence do not apply to proceedings before the board of review. To change the assessment, a majority of the board must be present. The assessor also will present evidence relating to the market analysis performed on the property. The board’s deliberations must be done in open session, and the board is required to decide each objection by a roll call vote. If the board votes to change an assessment, it must state the correct assessment on the record and that the correct assessment is reasonable in view of the relevant evidence it received.
If there is a tie vote, the assessor’s determination is upheld. The board may announce its decision orally, mail its decision to the taxpayer, or both.
Appeals from the Board’s Decision
Three types of residential property tax appeals are available from a board of review’s decision.27 First, an owner may appeal from the board’s determination by an action for certiorari to the circuit court under Wis. Stat. section 70.47(13). Second, an owner may submit a written complaint to the DOR requesting that the DOR revalue the property under Wis. Stat. section 70.85. Third, Wis. Stat. section 74.37 allows de novo review, which requires that “after paying the tax on the assessment, a property owner may proceed under Wis. Stat. § 74.37 with a claim for excessive assessment against the taxation district or the county, depending on which entity collected the tax.” If this claim is denied, the aggrieved property owner may then commence an action at the circuit court level under Wis. Stat. section 74.37(3)(d) to recover the amount of the claim not allowed. The taxpayer must evaluate which forum best suits the taxpayer’s case. Each type of appeal is explained below.
Department of Revenue Review. A homeowner who is dissatisfied with the board of review result may appeal under Wis. Stat. section 70.85 to the DOR if the value of the property does not exceed $1 million and the assessment is “radically out of proportion to the general level of assessment of all other property in the district.” The written complaint must generally be filed within 20 days after receiving the board of review’s determination. Wis. Stat. section 70.85 sets the cost for this type of review at $100. Typically, the DOR will hold an informal conference as part of its review.
The DOR may revalue the property if it determines that 1) the assessment is not within 10 percent of the general level of assessment of all other property in the municipality, 2) the revaluation can be accomplished within 60 days or by November 1 (whichever is later), and 3) the revaluation can be completed without reassessing all property within the taxation district. If the review is not completed by the tax due date, the tax must be paid and, if the assessment is later reduced, the taxpayer can file a claim under Wis. Stat. section 70.511(2) to recover any overpayment.
In 2008, the DOR performed 116 reviews and reduced assessments in 36 cases, a success rate for the taxpayers of approximately 31 percent.28 In 2009, taxpayers were successful in 22 percent of the DOR reviews. For 2010, the figure was 23 percent. The taxpayer may appeal a DOR review result to the circuit court by certiorari.
Certiorari. Certiorari is a Latin word meaning “to be informed of, or to be made certain in regard to.” It is also the name given to certain appellate proceedings for reexamination of actions of an administrative body such as a board of review or the DOR. An action for certiorari must be filed within 90 days after the taxpayer receives notice of a result by personal delivery or by mail. The circuit court reviews the record made before the board of review, functioning like an appellate court. There is no trial in the circuit court. Similar to a review under chapter 227, there might not even be a hearing.
There are several limits on the circuit court’s review of the action taken by the board of review. First, the circuit court must presume rightful action of the board. The valuation placed on the property is prima facie correct and binding on the board in the absence of evidence showing it to be incorrect. Second, the board of review’s determination will be upheld if there is any substantial basis for it. Third, if the taxpayer pursues certiorari review, the circuit court’s review is limited to the review of the record made before the board of review. The circuit court cannot conduct its own factual inquiry or admit any new evidence. On certiorari review, the circuit court can consider “(1) whether the board acted within its jurisdiction; (2) whether the board acted according to law; (3) whether the board’s action was arbitrary, oppressive or unreasonable, representing its will rather than its judgment; and (4) whether the evidence was such that the board might reasonably make the order or determination in question.”29
If the circuit court determines that the board of review made an error, it may remand the decision to the board of review and retain jurisdiction until the court’s orders are followed.
Section 74.37 Claims on Excessive Assessment. The Wisconsin Statutes also allow taxpayers a de novo review of their assessment claim. De novo review is a more substantial form of review than certiorari review.
De novo review begins by the taxpayer filing a written claim against the taxing district by January 31 of the year in which the tax is payable, stating the basis of the claim of excessive assessment and putting forth the amount of the taxpayer’s claim. The taxation district that imposed the tax has 90 days to disallow or allow the claim. If the claim is disallowed, the taxpayer can then file in the circuit court within 90 days. De novo review is available to the taxpayer only after the board of review acts and the taxpayer has paid the tax. Taxpayers are barred from filing an action under section 74.37 if they file a certiorari action to the circuit court or if they seek an administrative review.
Review under Wis. Stat. section 74.37(3)(d) “is not simply another means of judicial review.”30 Section 74.37(3)(d) actions allow property owners to fully contest their case again in a court trial despite having contested it before the board of review.31 As the Wisconsin Supreme Court explained in Nankin, the differences between certiorari review and a Wis. Stat. section 74.37(3)(d) action are considerable:
“To begin with ... certiorari review is limited to a review of the record. In comparison, during a court action, if the action proceeds to trial, the court may make its determination without regard to any determination made at any earlier proceeding. Instead, new evidence may be introduced, and the court may examine this evidence in making its determination. In addition, unlike certiorari review, during a court trial, the court may make its determination without giving deference to any determination made at a previous proceeding. The court must only give presumptive weight to the assessor’s assessment. Wis. Stat. § 70.49(2). Finally, unlike a certiorari review, in a trial, the court, upon making its determination, is not required to remand to the board for an assessment. It may make its determination based on the evidence. The court is only limited in the respect that, if a reassessment is necessary, the court must continue the action and order the reassessment before rendering its judgment. Wis. Stat. § 74.39(1). However, even if a reassessment is necessary, the court may still proceed to judgment if it is in the best interests of all parties to the action. § 74.39(3).”32
In a section 74.37 action, the burden is on the taxpayer to prove by the greater weight of the credible evidence that the assessment on the property is excessive. Before the circuit court, the rules of evidence will apply.
Section 74.37 de novo review was for many years unavailable to taxpayers in Milwaukee County. In 2001, in Nankin, the Wisconsin Supreme Court found that prohibition unconstitutional as a violation of equal protection. In 2007, however, the Wisconsin Legislature amended Wis. Stat. section 70.47(13) and (16)(a) in an attempt to meet Nankin’s equal-protection concerns, giving communities statewide, not just in Milwaukee County, the ability to restrict taxpayers challenging their assessments to an enhanced form of certiorari review. In 2009, in Metropolitan Associates,33 the Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld this scheme as not violating equal protection. However, on March 25, 2011, the Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals, declaring “enhanced certiorari review” unconstitutional and effectively making Wis. Stat. section 74.37 de novo review available to taxpayers throughout Wisconsin.34
Recent Results in Wisconsin
It is clear from media accounts that taxpayers sometimes are successful in getting their taxes reduced.35 The Fulton County (Georgia) Taxpayer’s Foundation reports a 94 percent success rate36 while the National Taxpayer’s Union estimates 20 to 40 percent of those who challenge their assessments earn a reduction. Before the housing price decline, in 2003 and 2004, taxpayers were successful in 56.42 percent and 49.14 percent of the appeals before the Cook County (Illinois) Board of Review.37
In Wisconsin, although there has not been a dramatic increase in the number of appeals, some taxpayers succeed in getting assessments reduced. As to the number of challenges, in Milwaukee the number of completed reviews at the board of review level has actually decreased from 185 in 2008 to 165 in 2010. In Madison, the board of review saw an increase from 23 cases in 2008, to 50 in 2009, and to 64 in 2010. In Greenfield, there was an increase in the number of board of review cases from 15 in 2008 to 338 in 2009 (although 112 of the 338 cases in 2009 involved one taxpayer). Based on these numbers, it is clear that although some communities have seen an increase, there has not been the flood of cases that some communities outside Wisconsin have experienced. There are at least three reasons why the experience in Wisconsin appears different than in some communities across the nation. First, home prices dropped less in Wisconsin than in some communities elsewhere, particularly those in the South and in the West. Second, Wisconsin communities tend to update reassessments more often than communities in other states. Third, at least in Milwaukee and Madison, there is a board of assessors that acts as a screening device for their boards of review.
Many taxpayers do obtain reduced assessments. In Madison, for example, an informal examination of summaries of completed board of review proceedings showed that taxpayers were successful in getting their assessments reduced in 51 percent of the completed reviews in 2007, 52 percent of the reviews in 2008, and 50 percent of the reviews in 2009. In Greenfield, taxpayers received reductions in 73 percent of the cases in 2008, 65 percent of the cases in 2009, and 62 percent of the cases in 2010.38
In Wisconsin, as in other states, real estate prices have declined. Taxpayers should closely examine their annual property tax assessments to make sure their tax assessments fairly reflect the property’s value. Wisconsin lawyers should be familiar with the tax appeal process so as to be of assistance to clients.
1 More detailed information is available at http://www.standardandpoors.com/.
2 Because assessors in different taxing districts value property at different percentages of market value, it is necessary for the Department of Revenue to convert the assessed values, by taxing jurisdiction, to a uniform level. The equalized values are used for apportioning county property taxes, public school taxes, and vocational school taxes and for distributing property tax relief.
3 DOR Releases Equalized Values, Aug. 13, 2010.
4 MSN report, by Kristina Dell, April 7, 2010.
5 Time magazine, Rana Foroohar, We’re Not Home Yet (Feb. 14, 2011).
7 Christine Daglas, What’s Your Home Worth?, Milwaukee Magazine (April 2010).
8 MSN report, supra note 4.
10 Chicago Journal, Nov. 24, 2010.
11 Wisconsin Taxpayer’s Alliance, Focus, June 18, 2008.
12 Waste Mgmt. of Wis. v. Kenosha County Bd. of Review, 184 Wis. 2d 541, 556 511 N.W.2d 695 (1994); Metropolitan Holding Co. v. Board of Review of the City of Milwaukee, 173 Wis. 2d 626, 631, 495 N.W.2d 314 (1993).
13 45 Wis. 2d 683, 173 N.W.2d 627 (1970).
14 The use of three-year-old sales as comparable has been questioned. See State ex rel. Wis. Edison v. Robertson, 99 Wis. 2d 561, 299 N.W.2d 626 (Ct. App. 1980).
15 Id. Extensive information about property assessment is available in the Department of Revenue’s Wisconsin Property Assessment Manual.
16 J. Kevin Murray, Issues in Appraisal Regulation: The Cracks in the Foundation of the Mortgage Lending Process, 43 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 1301 (2010).
18 David Phillips, Appraising In a Declining Market: A Practical Guide for the Residential Appraiser (2008). See generally Wayne A. Tenenbaum, What’s a Property Worth if Nobody Will Buy It? Ruminations on Property Tax Appeals in a Degraded Market, Lincoln Institute, State Tax Court Judge’s Conference 2009; Audrey Davis, Property Tax Appeals in the Current Economic Environment, Lincoln Institute, 2009.
19 Phillips, supra note 18.
20 A different appeal process exists for manufacturing property; appeal is first to the State Board of Assessors, then to the Wisconsin Tax Appeals Commission, and then to the circuit court. See Wis. Stat. § 70.995.
21 Of course, circuit court orders can be appealed in appropriate circumstances, but those appeals are not covered here.
22 William B. Ardern II, Wisconsin’s Property Tax Assessment Appeal System, 69 Wis. Law. 10 (March 1996). I thank Attorney Ardern for his assistance in preparing this article.
23 Fire insurance information is requested on the form used to commence an action before the board of review. Insurance information, however, may be out of date and typically is an estimate of replacement cost, not fair market value.
24 Wis. Stat. §§ 70.07, 70.075.
25 To be classified as a first-class city, a city must have a population of at least 150,000. Wis. Stat. § 62.05(1)(a). A city whose population has increased or decreased so as to permit the city’s inclusion in a different classification must take two discretionary, statutory steps to alter its classification. Wis. Stat. § 62.05(2).
26 Examination of summaries of board of review proceedings in two Wisconsin cities indicates that boards of review rarely raise an assessment. Only one such case was listed and the reason for the increase is not stated.
27 A limited form of review is available under Wis. Stat. section 74.35 when there are clerical-type errors in the assessment, mistakes with time limits, location-of-property questions, double assessments, and other obvious errors.
28 Email from the department’s communications director, March 9, 2011 (copy in file).
29 Waste Mgmt. of Wis. Inc. v. Kenosha County Bd. of Review, 184 Wis. 2d 541, 554, 516 N.W.2d 695 (1994).
30 See Nankin v. Village of Shorewood, 2001 WI 92, 245 Wis. 2d 86, 630 N.W.2d 141.
33 Metropolitan Assocs. v. City of Milwaukee, 2009 WI App 157, 321 Wis. 2d 632, 774 N.W.2d 821.
34 Metropolitan Assocs. v. City of Milwaukee, 2011 WI 20, 332 Wis. 2d 85, 796 N.W.2d 717.
35 For example, a Morristown, N.J., man disagreed with his local assessor’s report that values in his community increased 5 percent in 2008. He hired an appraiser who concluded that his home, which had been assessed at $1.6 million, was worth only $970,000. After a 14-month process, the parties agreed on a 25 percent reduction, which reduced the owner’s tax bill $5,400 annually. In another example, a resident of Westchester County, N.Y., hired a law firm to file a tax grievance. While his lawyer was initially unsuccessful in negotiating a settlement with the local authorities, the firm obtained a tax reduction of 12 percent after a judicial hearing. There are reports that an industry has cropped up around the tax appeal process, with companies filing tax appeals in exchange for a 50 percent cut of any reductions.
36 The Fulton County Taxpayer’s Foundation states that the average savings per taxpayer was $2,088 in 2010 (report available at http://fctf.org/media/april2011.pdf).
37 http://cookcounty board of review.com/html/overallsuccessfulappeals.html.
38 There are limitations to the records examined. First, the records do not separate residential and commercial property. Second, the reason for the board’s finding is not listed.