The intricacies of the property tax system in Wisconsin are not unlike the federal tax code: complex, confusing and potentially quite boring. But reporters Rutledge and Crowe tackled the topic with determination and curiosity and uncovered a statewide assessment system rife with problems. Founded in the late 1700s on fairness, Wisconsin's system is far from fair. In their investigation, Rutledge and Crowe used documents and large data sets to penetrate a subject that impacts every property owner in Wisconsin but that few understand. The disparities were hitting homeowners in their wallets, but most had no clue why. Among the discoveries: Assessors across Wisconsin violated the state constitution while regulators ignored the practice; in dozens of communities, 20% or more of taxes were paid by the wrong people; and assessors in 15% of municipalities were doing “poor” work by the state's own definition.
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