Gary H. Smith
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Cook County Property Taxes: Late Fees Waived

By Gary Smith
Cook County Property Taxes: Late Fees Waived

In late November 2020, the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted to give Chicago and Cook County property owners a 60-day extension on payment of 2020 property taxes because of COVID-19.

2021 Property Tax Bills Expected to be Higher

Although the property tax bills that were mailed out in early January have a due date of May 3, property owners can pay the first installment late without having to also pay interest. The first installment is 55% of the property’s total tax bill for the previous year. The first installment bill will not reflect any property tax exemptions, which appear on the second installment bill. The first installment also does not reflect any successful appeals made for the tax year 2020.

Cook County Board of Commissioners also allowed for a 60-day waiver of late fees last year because of the pandemic. The extension, however, only provides relief to property owners who pay property taxes directly, not those who pay into escrow accounts.

Although Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi sent COVID-19 assessment adjustment letters out to many Chicago property owners in 2020, those were temporary reductions for 2020, especially since all of Chicago property will be reassessed in 2021. Those COVID-19 assessment value reductions averaged 10%.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s 2021 budget is said to include a $93.9 million property tax hike as part of a $1.6 billion property tax levy. The new budget ordinance requires property owners to pay either an annual property tax increase of 5% or an increase based on the consumer price index, whichever one is less, in the future. These increases, says Lightfoot, will be approved annually by the Chicago City Council.  The tax levy indicates the amount of revenue the taxing district—in this case, Chicago—is seeking to collect from property taxes.

If a property owner believes he or she was over-assessed, the time to appeal is based on the suburb he or she lives in, and those dates can be found on the Cook County Assessor’s website. Property owners in Chicago should carefully look through their re-assessment information for 2021 and file appeals within the proper timeframe.

Property owners should also take the time to look at last year’s second installment tax bill to make sure the proper exemptions were provided, and if the property qualifies for more, the paperwork should be submitted now.