The adoption of electronic filing has significantly improved the efficiency of recording official documents and the processes associated with completing a real estate transaction. This was made possible through the Iowa Land Records system, which has integrated the electronic recording processes for Iowa’s 99 counties. A new opportunity for government efficiency and service to taxpayers is being considered by the Iowa legislature. House Study Bill 696 includes a provision that would improve processes in the Iowa Department of Revenue with respect to the declaration of value document.

When a real estate transaction occurs that requires the payment of real estate transfer taxes, a form known as the “Declaration of Value” (DOV) must accompany a deed or contract filed with the county recorder. When the conveyance document is recorded, the recorder passes the DOV form on to the county or city assessor. The assessor performs their duties and then exchanges information with the Iowa Department of Revenue property tax division. Current practices require the Department of Revenue to wait for information from the assessor, but the department wishes to receive more timely information so they can proceed with their processes.

The proposed solution is to have the recorder, through Iowa Land Records, automatically transfer a copy of the DOV to the department. This can happen by recording the document in the county and then having the DOV transferred electronically to Iowa Land Records like every other recorded document. Iowa Land Records will create an application programming interface (API) that will enable the department to download recorded DOV documents along with the metadata associated with the conveyance document. The download function will be scheduled by the department according to their business needs, and they can proceed with their business processes much sooner. Assessors can also continue to receive the DOV documents from the recorders as they always have.

The legislation is currently pending before the Iowa General Assembly to enable this new workflow. The proposal is part of an omnibus bill advanced to the legislature and the governor by the department. The plan provides that there would be no recording fees for DOV documents. Instead, the department and Iowa Land Records will negotiate a fee to build and maintain the service (API). The fee will be substantially less than what the typical recording fees might have been, providing a savings to the department while also covering the cost of the service. This is a true win-win that provides for a much more timely execution of department processes, with a bonus of providing public access to the DOV records through Iowa Land Records.

Note: “If the legislation is enacted and the project proceeds, some information on the DOV form will be redacted before it is posted online, including phone numbers and email addresses. Unredacted versions of the DOV may be viewed at the office of each county recorder.”