The general rule is that all property in Wisconsin is taxable unless it is specifically exempt from tax by the state legislature. Statutes granting exemption are, according to the legislature and the courts, strictly construed against exemption and in favor of taxation. The property owner has the burden to prove entitlement to exemption, and that the property fits clearly within a precise statutory exemption category.
Typically, under the categories in state statute section 70.11 (PDF), exemption is based on ownership of the property, use of the property, or a combination of ownership and use. Besides the exemption categories listed in this statute, other exemption possibilities exist. Separate and additional categories of exempt personal property are listed in state statute section 70.111. Under state statute section 70.112, property subject to a different form of tax, such as property of a utility company, is typically exempt from property tax.
How to Apply
To apply for an exemption, you must complete a Wisconsin Department of Revenue application form, which may be obtained from the local assessor. The form must be filed for any property that was taxed in the previous year but, because of a change in the use, occupancy, or ownership, may now qualify for exemption. The application must be filed by March 1 of the year for which exemption is sought.
The application must be completed in its entirety so that necessary information is provided to the assessor to allow for an informed decision. In certain cases, the assessor may require additional information. Insufficient information may result in denial of the application. No application needs to be filed for certain property, such as municipal property, property of the state, and manufacturing machinery and equipment. Check section 70.11 (PDF) to see if an application is necessary for your organization / property.