Mar 5, 2024 - News

New tax statements will cost Iowans $1.9M+

Illustration of Benjamin Franklin on a postage stamp.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Polk County will spend about $100,000 this month to mail special taxpayer statements to its roughly 146,000 property owners as required under a new state law.

Why it matters: Statewide, each tax return will cost an average of $1.50 with a total projected expense of over $1.9 million, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

Between the lines: The bill was meant to bring more transparency to local budgeting practices, Sen. Dan Dawson(R-Council Bluffs) and chairperson of the Ways and Means Committee said when introducing it for floor debate last year.

  • But some county leaders say it's a waste of taxpayer money since much of the information is already published online or printed on the annual tax stubs mailed to property owners.
  • Others say the property tax reconciliation reports provide greater detail of information in one spot and will be distributed consistently to every property owner across the state.

Catch up fast: The reports are required in a provision of the bipartisan bill passed last year to curb the growth of local governments by limiting how much more taxes they can collect as property values spike.

  • About a dozen tax or fee changes are leading to an estimated annual loss in government revenue of $100 million statewide.
  • Gov. Kim Reynolds praised the legislation as property tax relief, noting the new transparency requirements in a press release last year.

Zoom in: The new statements, which must be mailed by March 20, include details about the upcoming proposed property tax rates assessed by local governments.

  • If tax collections for the fiscal year that starts July 1 exceed the current year, governments must provide a detailed explanation.
  • Examples of how proposed tax rates will impact residential and commercial properties will also be included in the report.

What they're saying: The report will probably be an overwhelming amount of information for most property owners, Polk County's budget staff told supervisors last month.

  • Supervisor Matt McCoy responded during the meeting by calling the mailing "ludicrous" while Supervisors Chairperson Angela Connolly said "it's stupid."

What's next: The new law also requires local governments to hold a public hearing in addition to other budget hearings already mandated in other sections of state law, according to an analysis published by the Iowa League of Cities.

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