Wisconsin requires residents to pay property taxes and other taxes to pay for things such as road maintenance and schools. The state collects property taxes on tangible property such as land and homes, but not on intangible property like copyrights and patents. Unlike other states, Wisconsin does not levy a property tax on vehicles, but it does require vehicle owners to pay a yearly registration fee.
The amount of property tax each Wisconsin resident pays is based on the property's assessed value and the tax rate. Each tax district in a city or town employs a tax assessor, who determines the assessed value of each property based on its market value. As of 2012, no Wisconsin county uses an assessor; all assessments are done at the city or town level. Assessors must use the market value of each property as of Jan. 1 of each year. By Wisconsin state law, assessors must perform an assessment at least every five years. Each property's assessed value is public record and available at each assessor's office or website.
Assessors multiply each property's assessed value by the tax rate to get the actual amount each property owner must pay in taxes. In Wisconsin, each city that collects property taxes determines how much money it will need to operate for the tax year. Each governing body takes the amount needed to operate minus any other sources of income such as state aid. The number left over is how much the city needs to raise in property taxes, also known as a levy. To determine the tax rate, the municipality takes the levy amount divided by the assessment value of all the properties in that area. According to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, the tax rates for Wisconsin municipalities vary from under 1 percent to 13 percent.
Local treasurers collect property taxes and divvy them up among the government entities. In 2005, Wisconsin state averages showed that 45 percent of property taxes went to schools, 25 to city governments, 20 percent to county governments and 8 percent to vocational or technical schools. Wisconsin state laws requires municipalities to send tax bills directly to the property owner or the owner's designee, such as a mortgage company that pays the tax bill as part of the mortgage. Personal property taxes must be paid by Jan. 31 of each year.
To help residents who have trouble paying their property taxes, Wisconsin offers two assistance programs. The Homestead Credit Program offers a direct refund or income tax credit to homeowners and renters with low incomes. To qualify, residents must have an income of less than $24,680 as of 2011. The refund or tax credit amount depends on the claimant's exact household income. The Property Tax Deferral Loan Program, run by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, provides loans to elderly homeowners to help them cover the costs of property taxes. Loans come from the home's current equity, and homeowners do not pay interest and principle. When the homeowner sells the property, the proceeds repay the loans.