Gary H. Smith
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Illinois Property Taxes Are Crushing the Middle Class

By Gary Smith
Illinois Property Taxes Are Crushing the Middle Class

A new Kiplinger report rates Illinois as the least tax-friendly state in the country, especially for homeowners. Illinois has the second-highest property taxes in the nation, at an average of 2 percent of the home’s value.

Reduce Property Taxes Through Appeals

At the same time that property taxes are rising, home values have remained stagnant. In February, the Federal Housing Finance Agency showed that the average annual housing appreciation rate in Illinois since the end of 2007 has been 0.2 percent. Residential property taxes average about 6.4 percent of a typical income in Illinois. That’s up from 3.6 percent in 1990.

The ongoing driver of Illinois’ property tax hikes has been pensions and the high amount of entities that impose levies. Illinois has nearly 7,000 independent governmental units, which include counties, school districts, municipalities, fire districts, sanitary districts, parks, and local library districts, to name a few. 

In the spring of 2019, state lawmakers created an 88-member Illinois Property Tax Relief Task Force, which has yet to release a report to the public, though a draft was shared with multiple outlets in January. The recommendation rests on expanding on Illinois sales tax.

Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi, who was elected on a campaign of reform, has revamped the way property assessments are done, using more accurate data and providing a deeper level of transparency.

The new formula’s goal is to value single-family homes correctly the first time. But that doesn’t mean that a property owner can’t appeal assessments that they think are off base–or that contain incorrect information.

First, make sure that the information on the property in the tax assessment is correct. Does it have the correct Property Identification Number, or PIN? Is the square footage correct? Is the designation of the property correct? If it’s a residential property, does it list the correct amount of bedrooms and bathrooms?

If any of that information is incorrect, the property owner can file an appeal, as long as it’s during the town’s designated appeals timeframe. That information is listed on the Cook County Assessor’s website.

In addition, property owners should also make sure they’re taking all the exemptions for which the property is eligible, to help reduce the property taxes. There are exemptions for seniors, those homeowners who are 65 years of age or older, for homeowners living in the location as their primary residence, for veterans and for people with disabilities.