Current law gives government power of warrantless searches to assess taxes
June 6, 2016 – Milwaukee, WI – The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty has petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court to hear a case challenging the government’s power to enter a citizen’s home without a warrant in order to conduct a property tax assessment.
Under Wisconsin Statutes, the tax assessor can demand entry into a private home. If the citizen refuses, the assessor can value the home at any amount for property tax purposes and the citizen has no right to appeal – they must pay that tax, no matter how outrageous it is.
“Punishing people who exercise their Fourth Amendment right to refuse to consent to a search – by stripping them of their appeal rights – violates the Fourth Amendment,” said Tom Kamenick, Deputy Counsel at WILL. “In fact, preventing government searches of homes for tax purposes (a notorious British practice in the colonies) was one of the primary reasons the framers created the Fourth Amendment. The law also violates due process, by depriving people of property (through taxation) while stripping them of any right to challenge their tax in court.”
Vincent Milewski, one of the plaintiffs in the case, commented, “The coercion of citizens to allow government officials into our homes under threat of punitive taxation without legal recourse should not be tolerated. It is unconstitutional, and an abuse of power.”
The case stems from a property tax assessment in Racine County. Vincent and his wife, Morganne, politely refused to permit the assessor inside their home. The assessor then raised their valuation (and the valuation of three other houses that did not have interior inspections) significantly while at the same time significantly lowering the assessments of every other house in their subdivision. When they were not permitted to challenge their assessment at the annual board of review hearing, WILL filed suit on their behalf. More background is available here.