Making sure a property has the proper tax exemptions attached to it is one of the best ways to ensure that a property owner is paying the lowest amount possible.
Why Exemptions Matter
Cook County property owners should check the second installment bills closely because the Cook County Assessor’s Office’s computer specialists might have removed tens of thousands of Homeowner and Senior exemptions from the property tax bill.
Every property owner who resides in their home is entitled to a Homeowner Exemption, and senior citizens over the age of 65 are entitled to a Senior Exemption. In addition, seniors over 65 who have an annual income of less than $65,000 are also entitled to a Senior Freeze, so that the property tax bill doesn’t go up each year.
In August, the Cook County Assessor’s Office released a press release advising property owners, specifically homeowners, to double-check that the proper exemptions were listed. If they were not, property owners were encouraged to apply for a Certificate of Error, which provides the homeowner the opportunity to receive up to three years prior tax exemptions that were missed, plus the current year. Certificate of Error documents are downloadable from the Cook County Assessor’s website and can be filed online, by mail or in person.
This year was the first year that many of the exemptions were auto-renewed, meaning the property owner didn’t need to continually refile the paperwork annually. However, that auto-renewal might not have happened in the correct way, which is why homeowners are encouraged to double-check the property tax bill. Exemptions are always taken on the second installment bill.
The Senior Freeze was recently increased from a maximum income of $55,000 to $65,000, so that could be a reason that they lost the exemption.
Property owners should also consider an appeal if they feel the property was over-assessed by the Cook County Assessor’s Office. First, ensure that all the information in the property description is accurate—appeals can be filed for inaccuracies in the description, such as incorrect square footage, number of bedrooms, or bathrooms. Property owners can also look at comparable properties—those that are the same age, model, and square footage—and use those comparables in the appeals process when there are differences in the assessment. The appeals process runs through the Cook County Board of Review and then the Illinois Property Tax Appeals Board.