What is Equalization?

How is an Equalization Order Determined?

The Iowa Department of Revenue is responsible for “equalizing” assessments every two years. Following is a general explanation of the purpose of equalization. The Department compares the assessors’ abstracts to a “sales assessment ratio study” it has completed independently of the assessors. If the assessment (by property class) is 5 percent or more above or below the sales ratio study, the Department increases or decreases the assessment. (There is no sales ratio study for agricultural and industrial property.) Equalization occurs on an entire class of property, not on individual property. Also, equalization occurs on an assessing jurisdiction basis, not on a statewide basis. Equalization is important because it helps maintain equitable assessments among classes of property and among assessing jurisdictions. This contributes to a more fair distribution of state aid, such as aid to schools. It also helps to equally distribute the total tax burden within the area.

The Iowa Department of Revenue imposes equalization orders in odd-numbered years for each property class, except industrial, in each of the 107 assessing jurisdictions. Equalization is accomplished by increasing or decreasing the aggregate valuations for certain classes of property within assessing jurisdictions by the percentage necessary to adjust the level of assessment to actual value.