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Errors in Commercial Property Tax Assessments Could Be Worth Millions

By Gary Smith
05/08/2018
Errors in Commercial Property Tax Assessments Could Be Worth Millions

When a mistake happens on a commercial property tax assessment, where the dollar amounts are high, that error proves costly. It is therefore particularly important for a commercial property owner to remain vigilant when considering property taxes. Errors by the Assessor are not just what is listed wrong, but also what is not known that negatively affects the value of the property. The property tax lawyer appealing the assessment should know what the Assessor lists as the characteristics of the property, and what the property characteristics actually are. Incorrect information listed by the Assessor, or information he does not know that could be used to argue down the value, could cost the commercial property owner thousands upon thousands of dollars more than should rightly be owed.

Why Property Tax Assessments Are High

The Cook County Assessor’s Office re-assesses each property every three years. Those assessments are not done in person, but are instead based on information that’s on file. The Assessor’s records may be very old and outdated, and may contain errors. They certainly do not reflect current conditions and usage.

Errors in the Assessor’s files for commercial properties can result from a number of factors, including property use, condition of the building, level of income and expenses and recent sales. An appeal from a property tax lawyer can alert the Assessor to these issues and ensure that your property receives a fair assessment based on the current status of the building. Not only can this result in tax savings for commercial property owners, but it also helps update the Assessor’s records, which can lead to a more accurate reassessment in the future.

For example, if a commercial space remains vacant that can bring down the property value of the building and allow the property tax attorney to appeal for a lower assessment. Because the Assessor’s office might not know about these vacancies without visiting the property, an appeal is required to alert the Assessor about the conditions of the building.

What Property Owners can do About Inaccurate Assessments

Commercial property owners can appeal the first-pass assessment on the notice received from the Assessor. An appraiser can produce an independent report outlining the value of the property to use in the property tax appeal. According to a report by ProPublica, since 2010, 70 percent of appeals were granted a reduction by the Cook County Assessor’s Office.

Property owners can also appeal to the Cook County Board of Review, even if they already received a reduction from the Assessor’s office. This three-person panel often grants further reductions. In addition, appealing to the Board of Review is a statutory requirement for appearing before the Circuit Court or Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB), if necessary.

Although this process sounds time-consuming, the potential for large tax savings makes it worthwhile.

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