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

By Gary Smith
Are Commercial Property Owners in Cook County Getting Robbed?

Cook County commercial property owners are footing a large tax bill as Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s four-year property tax increase plan kicks into effect. That plan was intended to fund the city’s pension funds; however, it’s also having the unintended consequence of shifting a larger burden onto business owners, according to a report from the Cook County Clerk’s office.

Commercial Property Owners Getting Squeezed

In addition to the tax increases, Mayor Emanuel’s plan also included additional tax exemptions for senior citizens and those whose overall income level was lower. In the county clerk’s report, they provided an example commercial property in the south suburbs that would see an increase of 8.2 percent. Commercial property owners are paying two and a half times as much as the residential property tax rate.

For some property owners, that means they’re paying more money in taxes in seven years than they paid for the property itself.

According to the Chicago Tribune’s 2017 investigation, “The Tax Divide,” the Cook County tax assessment process was rife with unfairness, forcing the poorer communities within Cook County to pay more property taxes because wealthier areas were being assessed at lower property values.

The Cook County Assessor’s Office has made changes to its assessment process this year, but that valuation system is just starting to impact tax bills being sent out now. Because of how much the amount a tax increase can impact different communities, it’s imperative that the property assessments be done correctly.

Ensure Your Assessment is Correct

It’s also imperative that a commercial property owner looks closely at the assessment to make sure the property is being assessed correctly. Common mistakes on a tax assessment include incorrect information on:

  • Square footage
  • Amenities
  • Vacancies
  • Zoning
  • Lot size

Amenities include items that are providing to business owners that use that space, such as security measures, outdoor space, etc.

If any of the items listed above are wrong on the property tax assessment, commercial property owners can appeal to the Cook County Assessor’s Office to correct that information and have the assessment reduced.

Vacancies are another area in which the Cook County Assessor’s Office might not have the correct information. Appeals may correct vacant property overassessments on a one-year-only basis, based on diminished market value due to the unoccupied spaces.