Overview of Wisconsin Taxes
Wisconsin has some of the highest property taxes in the country. The state’s average effective property tax rate is 1.95%, the fifth highest average of any state in the U.S.
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To calculate the exact amount of property tax you will owe requires your property's assessed value and the property tax rates based on your property's address. Please note that we can only estimate your property tax based on median property taxes in your area. There are typically multiple rates in a given area, because your state, county, local schools and emergency responders each receive funding partly through these taxes. In our calculator, we take your home value and multiply that by your county's effective property tax rate. This is equal to the median property tax paid as a percentage of the median home value in your county.
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Jennifer Mansfield, CPA, JD/LLM-Tax, is a Certified Public Accountant with more than 30 years of experience providing tax advice. SmartAsset’s tax expert has a degree in Accounting and Business/Management from the University of Wyoming, as well as both a Masters in Tax Laws and a Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University Law Center. Jennifer has mostly worked in public accounting firms, including Ernst & Young and Deloitte. She is passionate about helping provide people and businesses with valuable accounting and tax advice to allow them to prosper financially. Jennifer lives in Arizona and was recently named to the Greater Tucson Leadership Program.
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Wisconsin Property Taxes
If you’re thinking about buying a home in Wisconsin, we’ve got bad news: the Badger State has some of the highest property taxes in the country. The state’s average effective property tax rate is 1.95%, the fifth highest average of any state in the U.S. That rate is unlikely to increase much in coming years, however. Wisconsin recently passed a law that strictly limits increases in total property tax revenue collected by cities, towns, counties and school districts. Read on to learn more about that and other important Wisconsin property tax rules.
Looking to calculate your potential monthly mortgage payment? Check out our mortgage calculator.
For those looking to buy a home in the Badger State, our Wisconsin mortgage guide can help make the process of getting a mortgage a bit easier. It includes important information about rates and gives you the tools to make more informed decisions about your mortgage.
How Wisconsin’s Property Tax Works
Property taxes in Wisconsin are due in two annual installments, the first by January 31 and the second by July 31. Taxes are based on two key numbers: the assessed value of a property, and the total property tax rate.
Assessed value is calculated annually by local assessors in each tax district. While assessed value should be roughly equal to market value (the amount for which a home would actually sell), in some areas it varies by over 25%. For this reason, the state of Wisconsin annually equalizes values between districts, and calculates an assessment ratio for each district.
The assessment ratio can help homeowners determine if their home has been accurately assessed. For example, if your home’s assessed value is $100,000, and your assessment ratio is 0.80, your market value should be about $125,000 (that’s $100,000 divided by 0.80). If you believe your home has been incorrectly assessed, you can file an appeal with your local Board of Review (or Board of Assessors, in Milwaukee).
There are several types of tax credits that many homeowners in Wisconsin receive. The most common is the school levy tax credit. This credit is given to anyone who pays property taxes and is based on their school district levy as well as the value of their home. Another common credit is the lottery and gaming credit, which is given to Wisconsin homeowners living in a primary residence.
Wisconsin Property Tax Rates
The rates paid by homeowners in Wisconsin vary depending on where they live. Cities, towns, municipalities and school districts all levy separate taxes with their own rates. Rates are calculated based on the total levy (the revenue a tax district would like to generate) divided by the total assessed value in the district.
So, to use a simple example, if a district’s levy is $1,000 and the total of assessed value in the district is $100,000, the rate would be .01, or 1%. In 2013, the Wisconsin legislature passed a law that limits any increases in total levies. Tax districts can only increase a levy by a public vote, when there is new construction or in a few other special circumstances.
Tax rates in Wisconsin are typically expressed in dollars of taxes per thousand of assessed value. Since assessed values vary on similar property between one taxation district and the next, rates in different areas are not necessarily comparable.
Instead, effective rates can be used to make direct comparisons. An effective property tax rate is the annual property tax payment as a percentage of home value. In the table below, you will find average effective rates, median annual property taxes and median home value for every county in Wisconsin.
|County||Median Home Value||Median Annual Property Tax Payment||Average Effective Property Tax Rate|
|Fond du Lac||$147,000||$2,900||1.97%|
Milwaukee County is Wisconsin’s largest county (by population). It sits on the western shore of Lake Michigan, a little less than 100 miles north of Chicago. It also has some of the highest property tax rates in Wisconsin.
The average effective property tax rate in Milwaukee County is 2.58%. That is more than double the national average. In the city of Milwaukee, the total 2018 property tax rate was 27.30 per $1,000 of assessed value. The city’s assessment ratio was 100.2%, which means assessed values are slightly higher than actual values.
Located due west of Milwaukee, Dane County is home to the Wisconsin State Capital, Madison. Homeowners in Dane County pay some of the highest property taxes (in dollar terms) of those in any county in Wisconsin. The median annual property tax paid by Dane County’s homeowners is $4,764. That is more than double the national median, and $1,500 higher than the state median.
Waukesha County is a largely suburban county located outside of Milwaukee. Tax rates in Waukesha County are significantly lower than those in neighboring Milwaukee County. The average effective tax rate in Waukesha County is 1.60%. That ranks as the 17th lowest rate out of Wisconsin’s 72 counties.
With a population of about 250,000, Brown County is the fourth largest county in Wisconsin. It is situated at the end of Green Bay and contains the city by the same name. In Green Bay, the total 2014 tax rate was 22.79 per $1,000 of assessed value. The local public school district tax constituted about 44% of that total rate.
Racine County is situated along the Lake Michigan shoreline, between Milwaukee and Chicago. While property tax rates in Racine are among the highest in the state, they are still well below those in Milwaukee. The average effective property tax rate in Racine County is 2.16%. At that rate, a homeowner with a home worth $200,000 would pay $4,320 annually in property taxes.
Located west of Green Bay and north of Lake Winnebago, Outagamie County has property taxes somewhat lower than the state average. The median annual property tax paid by homeowners in Outagamie County is $3.030, about $200 lower than the state median.
Winnebago County is located along the western shore of the 137,000 acre Lake Winnebago, in east-central Wisconsin. The county’s average effective property tax rate ranks seventh in the state. In the county’s largest city, Oshkosh, the total 2017 rate was around 25 per $1,000 of assessed value. Assessed value in Oshkosh was slightly lower than market value: the assessment ratio was 98.13%.
This southeastern Wisconsin County has some of the highest property tax rates in the state. The average effective property tax in Kenosha County is 2.2719%, fourth highest of the state’s 72 counties. It is worth noting, however, that Illinois’s Lake County, which neighbors Kenosha County to the south, has even higher property tax rates. The average effective rate in Lake County is 2.84%.
With a population of about 160,000, southern Wisconsin’s Rock County is the ninth largest county in the state. It also has the fourth highest property tax rates, with a county average effective property tax rate of 2.16%. At that rate, the annual taxes on a home worth $150,000 would be $3,240.
Marathon County is Wisconsin’s oldest county; it was established in 1850. Its name comes from the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC (from which the well-known long-distance race also earns its name). The median annual property tax paid by homeowners in Marathon County is $2,772, about $500 lower than the state median.
Property Tax: Which Counties are Getting the Best Bang for Their Buck
SmartAsset’s interactive map highlights the places across the country where property tax dollars are being spent most effectively. Zoom between states and the national map to see the counties getting the biggest bang for their property tax buck.
Our study aims to find the places in the United States where people are getting the most for their property tax dollars. To do this we looked at school rankings, crime rates and property taxes for every county.
As a way to measure the quality of schools, we analyzed the math and reading/language arts proficiencies for every school district in the country. We created an average score for each district by looking at the scores for every school in that district, weighting it to account for the number of students in each school. Within each state, we assigned every county a score between 1 and 10 (with 10 being the best) based on the average scores of the districts in each county.
For each county, we calculated the violent and property crimes per 100,000 residents.
Using the school and crime numbers, we calculated a community score. This is the ratio of the school rank to the combined crime rate per 100,000 residents.
We used the number of households, median home value and average property tax rate to calculate a per capita property tax collected for each county.
Finally, we calculated a tax value by creating a ratio of the community score to the per capita property tax paid. This shows us the counties in the country where people are getting the most bang for their buck, or where their property tax dollars are going the furthest.
Sources: US Census Bureau 2017 American Community Survey, Department of Education, Federal Bureau of Investigation, State Police or Justice Department websites