Guide to Property Tax in Milwaukee (2021)

It’s hard to know if getting your property tax assessment in Milwaukee is filled with good news or bad until you open that dreaded notice.

The good news means that the investment you made in your property in Milwaukee, WI, as reflected in your property tax bill, increased because your home’s value has reached higher than it was before the last catastrophic 2008 recession.

The bad news is that you are responsible for paying those property taxes even if your own circumstances haven’t increased to match that same level reflected in your property tax bill.

According to the city assessor’s office, some districts saw home property value increases as high as $50,000 in Milwaukee and Milwaukee County.

For some of you, that means an excellent opportunity to sell a house for a profit, but it doesn’t mean you can escape the property tax in Milwaukee. It means you need to understand the complexities behind taxes, profit, Wisconsin tax exemptions, and real estate taxes when selling your house.

Let’s dive into how the City of Milwaukee calculates these property taxes, how it benefits homeowners, and what you can do to combat the negatives.

Property Taxes in Milwaukee

Property Taxes in Milwaukee

Every city in the country establishes property values under its jurisdiction and sets out to create its budget using those values and included municipalities. Balancing a city’s budget is challenging because the welfare of its inhabitants is essential to a thriving city. 

This property tax assessment budget, however, does not include The Milwaukee Public Schools and county tax units established later in the year. Your property tax in Milwaukee is also influenced by which school district you choose to live within.

For 2021, the City of Milwaukee is not doing a reevaluation of property taxes and is instead applying the tax rules of a maintenance year.

During a maintenance year, few properties will see any changes in their tax assessment. When a home has undergone renovations, extensions through permitted or non-permitted means, assessment changes come into play and will reflect in the declared value of your home.

Your property taxes are calculated based on sales comparables from the previous year, reflecting the real estate market’s upward or downward trend and/or fair market value. 

However, especially during a recession, you can appeal your tax bill. In those instances when your home’s decreased value hasn’t kept pace with your local assessor, make a point of letting city hall know and consult with the board of review and your city assessor once you submit your exemption application.

In many instances, a decrease in property values doesn’t automatically catch up with your property’s assessed value. 

When in doubt, reach out. The City of Milwaukee’s Assessor’s Office provides the appropriate forms and information. We’ve included links below to make it easier for you to navigate the process.

These taxes are also an essential factor when you’re considering selling a home, and companies that buy houses in Wisconsin can assist you through the pertinent facts. 

Wisconsin Tax Exemptions

To apply for a property tax exemption in Wisconsin, you must complete a Wisconsin Department of Revenue Application form. To ease the tax burden, the State of Wisconsin issued a state lottery tax credit for those property owners residing in their primary residence on January 1, 2021, for the applicable tax year.

According to the treasurer’s office, this credit ranges from $214 to $340, depending on the school district, and applies for 2022 as well.

Consult their handy guide for detailed information on how this exemption applies to your residential, commercial, and agricultural property tax assessment and how it affects your mortgage payments and property liens. (Did you know that a mortgage is technically a lien?)

Also, consider that if you fall into a different home property tax bracket in other locations, we can help you with an easy solution when you contact us and ask to buy your house in Wauwatosa or anywhere in Wisconsin.

Milwaukee Property Tax Exemptions

Milwaukee relies on its decades-old policy to produce its property tax assessments and stands behind its state law to defend residents’ rights to appeal this assessment. Tax notifications are typically mailed to your primary residence or registered mailing address in December. 

If you are going to apply for the existing tax exemptions, whether you’re keeping your home or want to save on the taxes when you sell a house, make sure you meet the deadline that the City of Milwaukee sets out. 

The caveat here is that this schedule conflicts with other property tax assessment schedules in other districts in Wisconsin and is tailor-made for Milwaukee residents only.

Once you receive your property tax information in the mail, you must make the first installment of your personal property taxes by January 31st and the second by April 30 of that year to fulfill the tax amount in your assessment. If you make these payments with your credit card or debit card, a 2.75% surcharge will apply.

For frequently asked questions about the property tax bill, visit Common Questions and find your answer.

Since the City of Milwaukee doesn’t have enough workforce to visit each property, sometimes unforeseen discrepancies occur. Therefore it is up to you to inform yourself of the assessment schedule and contact the city office to request a tax exemption and allow the city enough time to respond.

An existing myth is that your property taxes will increase if you spend money renovating your home. While that will increase your home’s selling and profit potential, a property value can increase even without upgrades. It’s all about what the market will bear, and since we buy homes in Milwaukee, we understand every facet of the volatile real estate market.

Tax Exemption Requests in Milwaukee

Tax Exemption Requests in Milwaukee

The City of Milwaukee has several property tax exemption portals to explore. All property tax exemption requests must be filed by March 1st for the tax exemption year requested. If you miss that date, you missed the opportunity for the entire year. No further exceptions are granted.

These are the exemption forms that may apply to your particular situation.

These links will introduce you to the process, but remember that the March 1st deadline always comes sooner than you realize. 

If you don’t qualify for an exemption and you’re unable to meet the demands of paying your property tax payment by the assessment dates outlined in your notice, contact the treasurer’s office and negotiate a 10-month interest-free installment payment plan.

If you plan on selling, consider accepting a cash offer for your house.

Fair Share Program

Plain and simple, property tax collections help the City of Milwaukee and all states to fund schools, infrastructure, and local road repairs paid for through taxes. 

In Wisconsin, certain institutions like worship, cultural, educational, sports, and hospitals are exempt from paying property taxes by the government, regardless of their profitability or size.

Therefore, the bulk of the tax burden falls on individual property owners. They’re responsible for paying property taxes based on the economic up or downturn. Property assessments are based on historical property sales data and keep pace with the hefty bill of operating a city so that people thrive.

To combat this heavy burden on the inhabitants and taxpayers of Milwaukee, the City of Milwaukee instituted a solution by asking these tax-exempt institutions to make considerable donations for the benefit of all.  A community that can afford to spend money will spend money.

These tax funds help keep the local Fire & Police Department staffed, maintain our roads, and provide snow removal to ensure the city keeps operating to benefit everyone and help ease the burden on individual taxpayers and homeowners.

The Fair Share program is a two-way street. These tax-exempt institutions could make fair share donations based on ¼ to ⅓ of their portion of the tax bill if they weren’t deemed tax-exempt instead of being another tax drain on the city.

Those institutions that contribute through the program receive a reward by creating a credit return on non-exempt properties belonging to these non-profit institutions.

The Fair Share Program operates on voluntary principles, but contributions ultimately benefit the entire community tenfold.


Milwaukee, WI, is a great place to live. Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, and home to world-famous breweries and exceptional baseball, paying property tax in Milwaukee is a responsibility that we all share to ensure our city remains a great place to live for the next generation.

Owning a home in Milwaukee also comes with another responsibility. You have to understand your rights. No one else will take care of these details, and you can’t escape the process by selling a house with a tax lien in Wisconsin.

Property tax assessments, when to apply for exemptions, and how to minimize paying the penalties when you sell a house are all difficult avenues to maneuver. Add to that the confusion of selling a house and uprooting children, and the task may seem enormous. 

Overcoming that hurdle can be overwhelming, but qualified experts in the home buying industry can help.

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