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Chicago Property Tax Assessments: Considerable Relief May Be Available

By Gary Smith
05/04/2018
Chicago Property Tax Assessments: Considerable Relief May Be Available

In Cook County, residential properties are taxed using computer valuation programs, but industrial and commercial properties are completed individually using spreadsheets that group properties by neighborhood. This system creates room for error that commercial property owners can use to appeal their tax bill.

How Commercial Property Taxes Are Determined

The information that goes into producing an assessment for a commercial property includes rent and expenses per square foot, sales information, vacancy rates and other information. A commercial property can actually have three different assessments if it contains retail space, office space, and a garage.

In addition, some higher-end properties have features that make accurate valuation difficult to achieve from the outside.

The process for assessing commercial property taxes is that the Cook County Assessor’s Office does a first pass at calculating each parcel’s fair market value. If a property owner disagrees with that original valuation, it can appeal, providing documentation that supports the assertion of a lower property value. The appeal is either granted or denied.

Commercial property owners then have another option, even if their appeal was granted, to appeal to the Cook County Board of Review, which is a three-member panel that also considers property assessments.

Why Property Owners Should Appeal

Property owners often assume that there’s no point to appeal a property tax bill because taxes are always higher from year to year. But lowering the property tax bill through the appeals process lowers the amount on which the next triennial reassessment is based.

In fact, the Cook County Assessor’s Office says it relies on these appeals to provide it more complete information about a property since the office itself doesn’t have the manpower to survey every area itself.

In Cook County, it’s not unusual for the appeal to be granted, which means that property owners who don’t appeal end up paying more in property taxes.

And property owners must remain vigilant each year because the initial valuation of the property might have been changed on appeal, but it could snap back to the original dollar amount on the next tax bill.

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