On July 7, 2017, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a ruling in Milewski v. Town of Dover. In this case, the Milewskis refused to allow the tax assessor entry into their home for purposes of assessing the property. The assessor increased the Milewskis’ assessment by 10.5%. Under state statute, the Milewskis had waived the ability to challenge the increased assessment at the Board of Review, by refusing to allow the assessor to enter their residence. The Milewskis challenged both their increased assessment and the constitutionality of the state statute. Ultimately the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Milewskis on constitutional grounds.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court held that a taxing authority cannot force a homeowner to choose between allowing a tax assessor entry into the residence or giving up the right to appeal the assessment. In arriving at its decision, the Court reasoned that a homeowner has a constitutional right to challenge their property tax assessment, and the exercise of that right cannot be conditioned on the homeowner consenting to a search of their home. However, the Court also noted that, while the homeowner cannot be denied the opportunity to challenge their tax assessment, they still have a heavy burden to overcome—a burden which they may not be able to meet without providing information about the inside of their residence.
The Court’s decision changes the rules governing property tax assessment. Following Milewski, property owners can no longer be denied the right to appeal their property tax assessment to a Board of Review for refusing to allow the assessor to enter into their homes. Additionally, the legislature is currently considering Senate Bill 158 which would alter the state statutes to be in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling. It is likely that the final form of this bill will contain additional or different procedural requirements for tax assessors.
Given the changes and potential for additional changes in the future, it is important that municipal taxing authorities monitor this website for any new developments. Municipalities should contact their municipal attorney with any questions.
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