Rule of taxation uniform; income, privilege and occupation taxes

Wisconsin Constitution (1848)

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[As amended Nov. 1908, April 1927, April 1941, April 1961 and April 1974]


The rule of taxation shall be uniform but the legislature may empower cities, villages or towns to collect and return taxes on real estate located therein by optional methods. Taxes shall be levied upon such property with such classifications as to forests and minerals including or separate or severed from the land, as the legislature shall prescribe. Taxation of agricultural land and undeveloped land, both as defined by law, need not be uniform with the taxation of each other nor with the taxation of other real property. Taxation of merchants' stock-in-trade, manufacturers' materials and finished products, and livestock need not be uniform with the taxation of real property and other personal property, but the taxation of all such merchants' stock-in-trade, manufacturers' materials and finished products and livestock shall be uniform, except that the legislature may provide that the value thereof shall be determined on an average basis. Taxes may also be imposed on incomes, privileges and occupations, which taxes may be graduated and progressive, and reasonable exemptions may be provided.

    [1905 J.R. 12, 1907 J.R. 29, 1907 c. 661, vote Nov. 1908; 1925 J.R. 62, 1927 J.R. 13, vote April 1927; 1939 J.R. 88, 1941 J.R. 18, vote April 1941; 1959 J.R. 78, 1961 J.R. 13, vote April 1961; 1971 J.R. 39, 1973 J.R. 29, vote April 1974]

Article VIII, §1 - ANNOT.

While a sale establishes value, the assessment still has to be equal to that on comparable property. Sub. (2) (b) requires the assessor to fix a value before classifying the land. It does not prohibit the assessor from considering the zoning of the property when it is used for some other purpose. State ex rel. Hensel v. Town of Wilson, 55 Wis. 2d 101, 197 N.W.2d 794.

The fact that land purchased for industrial development under s. 66.521, Stats. 1969, [now s. 66.1103] and leased to a private person is not subject to a tax lien if taxes are not paid does not violate the uniformity provision. State ex rel. Hammermill Paper Co. v. La Plante, 58 Wis. 2d 32, 205 N.W.2d 784.

The Housing Authority Act, in granting tax exemptions to bonds, does not violate this section. State ex rel. Warren v. Nusbaum, 59 Wis. 2d 391, 208 N.W.2d 780.

A law requiring a reduction in rent due to property tax relief does not violate the uniformity clause. It is not a tax law. State ex rel. Bldg. Owners v. Adamany, 64 Wis. 2d 280, 219 N.W.2d 274.

The denial of equal protection claimed by the taxpayer, by reason of the exclusion from the "occasional sale" exemption of sellers holding permits was properly held by the trial court to be without merit. Ramrod, Inc. v. Dept. of Revenue, 64 Wis. 2d 499, 219 N.W.2d 604.

The income and property tax exemptions provided in the Solid Waste Recycling Authority Act bear a reasonable relation to a legitimate end of governmental action and therefore do not violate the Wisconsin Constitution, since the exemptions allow for reduction in user charges and in the cost of capital needs, thereby benefiting the state's citizens by promoting use of the Authority's facilities. Wisconsin Solid Waste Recycling Auth. v. Earl, 70 Wis. 2d 464, 235 N.W.2d 648.

Negative-aid provisions of school district financing, as mandated by 121.07 and 121.08, Stats. (1973), are violative of the rule of uniform taxation. Buse v. Smith, 74 Wis. 2d 550, 247 N.W.2d 141.

Improvements tax relief provisions of 79.24 and 79.25, 1977 stats., are unconstitutional as violative of uniformity clause. State ex rel. La Follette v. Torphy, 85 Wis. 2d 94, 270 N.W.2d 187 (1978).

A tax exemption with a reasonable, though remote, relation to a legitimate government purpose was permissible. Madison General Hospital Asso. v. Madison, 92 Wis. 2d 125, 284 N.W.2d 603 (1979).

The tax Increment Law, s.66.46 [now s. 66.1105] does not violate the uniformity rule. Sigma Tau Gamma Fraternity House v. Menomonie, 93 Wis. 2d 392, 288 N.W.2d 85 (1980).

A contract by which a landowner agreed to petition for annexation to a city, not to develop land, and to grant water rights to the city in exchange for reimbursement of all property taxes violated the uniformity rule. Cornwell v. City of Stevens Point, 159 Wis. 2d 136, 464 N.W.2d 33 (Ct. App. 1990).

For purposes of the uniformity clause, there is only one class of property, property that is taxable, and the burden of taxation must be borne as nearly as practicable among all property, based on value. Noah's Ark Family Park v. Village of Lake Delton, 210 Wis. 2d 301, 565 N.W.2d 230 (Ct. App. 1997). Affirmed 216 Wis. 2d 387, 573 N.W.2d 852 (1998), 96-1074.

To prove a statute unconstitutional due to a violation of the uniformity clause, a taxpayer must initially prove that his property has been overvalued while other property has been undervalued. Norquist v. Zeuske, 211 Wis. 2d 241, 564 N.W.2d 748 (1997), 96-1812.

Sections 70.47 (13), 70.85, and 74.37 provide the exclusive method to challenge a municipality's bases for assessment of individual parcels. All require appeal to the board of review prior to court action. There is no alternative procedure to challenge an assessment's compliance with the uniformity clause. Hermann v. Town of Delavan, 215 Wis. 2d 370, 572 N.W.2d 855 (1998), 96-0171.

The uniformity clause is limited to property taxes, recurring ad valorem taxes on property, as opposed to transactional taxes such as those imposed on income or sales. Telemark Development, Inc. v. DOR, 218 Wis. 2d 809, 581 N.W.2d 585 (Ct. App. 1998), 97-3133.

A partial exemption from property taxation, proposed for land conveyed to The National Audubon Society, Inc., probably is unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment and the rule of uniformity. 61 Atty. Gen. 173.

Competitive bidding for the issuance of a liquor license violates this section. 61 Atty. Gen. 180.

A bill providing for a tax on all known commercially feasible low-grade iron ore reserve deposits in Wisconsin, would appear to violate the uniformity of taxation provisions of sec. 1. 63 Atty. Gen. 3.

A law providing that improvements to real property would be assessed as of the date of completion of the improvements would be unconstitutional. 81 Atty. Gen. 94.

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