Gary H. Smith
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Commercial Property Owners Are Getting Slammed in Cook County

By Gary Smith
Commercial Property Owners Are Getting Slammed in Cook County

Commercial property owners in Cook County, Illinois are getting hit hard by property tax bills that continue to soar according to a recent analysis of the 2020 tax bill. The second installment tax bills, which are due to be paid by October 1, bring the total amount billed in the county to $16.1 billion. This is an increase of 3.4% from last year. 

What Is Causing Cook County Property Taxes to Soar? 

County Treasurer Maria Pappas’ office reports that changes in the way properties are valued for tax purposes and property vacancies caused by the pandemic are largely responsible for the recent surge in commercial property taxes. 

In the past, the system had been criticized for giving significant tax breaks to large commercial property owners, shifting the burden to homeowners. Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s recent overhaul of the way properties are assessed, however, has shifted the tax load to industrial and commercial property owners. According to reports, these property owners will see a massive 6.2% tax increase (approximately $410 million) this year. In contrast, residential property taxes are rising an average of 1.3% (about $114 million). 

Downtown Chicago Business Owners Are Paying the Price

In Downtown Chicago, property tax bills for some of the area’s largest office landlords are increasing by close to 11%. While Blackston Group’s Willis Tower, Vornado Realty Trust’s Merchandise Mart, and Sterling Bay’s Prudential Plaza are some of the hardest hit, the Franklin Office Tower is getting slammed with a 22% tax hike. 

Because taxing bodies including municipalities, school districts, park districts, and other local services will dictate the tax levy, tax rates vary substantially between the suburbs and the city. For example, according to the treasurer’s report, south suburban property owners will pay three to five times more in property taxes than owners who have equally valued property in Chicago. 

Real Estate Assessments May Be Incorrect

Last year, the Cook County Assessor’s Office reassessed properties that were in the suburbs south of North Avenue and adjusted numerous property values in other areas of the county because of the pandemic’s impact on property values. In some cases, inaccurate information, missed exemptions, or changes in property conditions may mean those assessments are incorrect. Property tax lawyers can help ensure property owners in Cook County are only paying their fair share of the tax burden by evaluating assessments and helping individuals and businesses file appeals.