No house, no property taxes?

Tracy Coenen

Last week five homeowners in the Madison, Wisconsin area completely lost their homes because of flood waters. Many other homes were affected by flood waters, but these were completely destroyed. The homeowners think they shouldn't have to pay their full property tax bills, but the taxing authorities say that the law requires them to pay.

Property tax bills are based upon a property's value as of January 1, regardless of the value of the property today. And although I feel badly for the homeowners who lost their houses, I understand the logic behind the laws. There has to be a uniform way of assessing taxes and making taxpayers pay accordingly.

If you've ever built a house, you know that taxpayers sometimes win this game. You might have a very low tax bill for a year because the house wasn't completed and therefore the value at the time of assessment was low. Even if your house is finished later in that year, you still pay the low tax bill because of the timing.