March 1, 2012Client Alert

Ensuring That Your Commercial Real Estate is Properly Assessed for 2012 in Light of Current Property Values

Under Wisconsin law, 2012 assessments are made as of January 1, 2012, and will be issued beginning in April 2012. Property owners must take steps to protect themselves now. Business property owners, whether they own apartment buildings, office buildings, retail, warehouses or other buildings for commercial use, know that property taxes are part of their operating expenses, and savings in this area can be very beneficial to their bottom line.


With the decline in real estate values, business property owners must take affirmative steps now to ensure that their 2012 property tax assessments reflect current property values, and do not continue at higher values which are above current fair market value. The Michael Best & Friedrich Property Tax Team can assist you in analyzing your property and financial information to determine a strategy for 2012.


In years past when real estate values were constantly increasing, assessors moved annually to raise assessments in an attempt to capture those steady value increases. In the current market, however, with municipal governments struggling to retain their historic revenue sources, assessors have not been as quick to reduce those values to reflect the current market, and business property owners thus need to be proactive on their own behalf.


In Wisconsin, assessors are not required to notify property owners of their current year assessment, or advise them of the procedures for challenging their assessment, unless the assessment is changing from the prior year. Thus, if an assessor chooses simply to leave the prior assessment in place and not reduce it to reflect current values, the property owner will not receive any notice and will have to take timely steps to protect himself or herself.


Property owners need to be especially well prepared to challenge their assessments in a down market because assessors may look to the absence of recent sales to justify reliance on earlier, pre-decline sales which do not reflect current values. 


Michael Best is the exclusive Wisconsin member of American Property Tax Counsel (“APTC”). Membership in APTC allows us to provide access to leading property tax counsel throughout the United States and Canada. APTC is the only organization of law firms providing major portfolio owners with a single source for all their property tax reporting and tax reduction needs.
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