In the rush to refinance mortgages to take advantage of historically low-interest rates, many Cook County property owners overpaid their second installment on property taxes. This is because some lenders had already paid the taxes, resulting in duplicate payments. Refunds have been offered to those who have overpaid on property taxes. Homeowners can prevent double payments by taking proactive action and checking payment statuses ahead of time.
Why Duplicate Property Tax Payments Happen
The Cook County Treasurer’s Office has a program called STOPS, the Stop Taxpayer Over-Payment System, which automatically returns a duplicate tax payment. These duplicates are often the result of overlapping tax payments made by both the new and previous lender. The STOPS program was created in 2009 to prevent duplicate payments made by lenders.
This year, the STOPS program returned a record of 13,324 duplicate payments. These payments totaled $51.2 million. For the entire year, STOPS has prevented 17,771 in tax overpayments, totaling $87.2 million.
Preventing Duplicate Property Tax Payments
Property owners can look on the Cook County Treasurer’s website prior to their tax due dates to see if a lender has committed to pay the taxes. Checking for lender payments helps a homeowner prevent a duplicate payment. In addition, property owners can check on the treasurer’s website to see if there has been an overpayment on property taxes. Data that can be checked goes back 20 years. A property owner will need to check with his or her lender to see if they’re entitled to a refund in the event that a duplicate payment took place.
STOPS Program Refunds VS. Other Refunds
The STOPS program refunds are different from the refunds that were recently received by homeowners automatically for autopayment. Those overpayment refunds went to homeowners who had approved property tax exemptions. Examples of these exemptions include the Homeowner’s Senior Citizen, Senior Assessment Freeze, and Disabled Persons exemptions. Those exemptions were applied to the second installment tax bill, which reduced the total taxes due to these homeowners. As another way to create a pandemic-related break for homeowners, Cook County residents have received tax breaks through property value adjustments. In addition, the second installment payments that were due Aug. 3 were extended. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, property owners were allowed to pay without late fees through Oct. 1.