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COVID-Related Property Tax Relief: Here’s What You Need to Know

By Gary Smith
COVID-Related Property Tax Relief: Here’s What You Need to Know

Cook County property owners received notice that they were receiving a pandemic-related tax break, but that might not translate into much savings on the property tax bill.

Why Tax Break Might Not Impact Tax Bills

In April 2020, Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi announced that his office would re-evaluate every property because of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the economy. At the time, he told WBEZ, “Our job is to estimate the market value of real estate and the crisis has a significant effect on many kinds of real estate.”

In a normal year, only one-third of all Cook County property is assessed.

The letters that went out to property owners about a pandemic-related tax break are tied to that re-assessment program Kaegi spoke of in April. However, although many property owners who received a letter will more than likely see some sort of a property tax reduction, it might not be as large as property owners think based on the percentage provided in the letter. For instance, a reduction of 9% in assessment doesn’t translate into a 9% reduction in property taxes. That’s because the amount of a property assessment is just one part of a much larger property tax formula.

Rental properties will likely see larger decreases than single-family properties, mainly because the loss of rental income will impact that property tax formula. The assessor’s office is also taking into account other factors to determine who receives COVID adjustments, including anticipated unemployment in an area.

However, commercial property owners shouldn’t expect to see much of an adjustment at all. That is because the overall dollar amount needed by the taxing bodies will not change. Reductions in one place will be added somewhere else.

Property owners in South and West Cook County suburbs didn’t receive these notices, as these are the suburbs under assessment by the Cook County Assessor’s Office for this year’s cycle. Any reductions from the pandemic will be shared in the assessment notices those property owners receive.

The assessor’s office produced a summary by township of the median reduction and the 10th and 90th percentile reduction. Most adjustments are falling between -8% and -11.5%.

Property owners can always appeal their property assessment to ensure they’re paying the correct amount of property taxes they owe.