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Cook County Property Tax Break: Good News for Seniors

By Gary Smith
Cook County Property Tax Break: Good News for Seniors

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker recently signed into law House Bill 833, which amends the property tax code to automatically renew the Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption in Cook County once it’s been granted. This bill passed both the House and Senate in unanimous votes in May.

What This Means for Senior Citizens

Senior citizens who are not currently receiving the exemption and those who turned 65 in 2019 must apply for the exemption in 2020, but from then on, it will automatically renew each year.

The Cook County Assessor’s Office agreed to conduct an audit on every Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption at least once every three years to prevent fraud.

The assessor’s office estimates that about 740,000 homeowners are eligible. However, only 285,000 applied this year.

In the House, the chief sponsor was House Assistant Majority Leader State Rep. Fred Crespo. In the Senate, the co-sponsors were State Sen. Laura Ellman and Sen. Bill Cunningham. This bill also had support from Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi.

What Is the Senior Citizens Homestead Exemption?

This Senior Citizens Homestead Exemption decreases the taxable value of homes by $8,000 in the equalized assessed value (EAV), which can provide several hundred dollars in savings in property taxes. To qualify for the exemption, homeowners must fit the following criteria:

  • Own and occupy the property as of Jan. 1 of the same year
  • Be 65 years or older during the tax year in which they’re applying for the exemption

The amount of this exemption was raised in 2017 from $5,000 to $7,000.

Seniors also have another option available to them, the Senior Freeze Exemption, which they would need to still reapply for each year. This exemption is limited to those 65 and older with an annual household income of $65,000 or less. It alleviates the impact of regular reassessment increases that occur every three years by freezing the home EAV. To remain eligible for this exemption, an applicant must have owned and occupied the property in question for both the current and previous tax year.

These two exemptions can be used together.

There are also other tax breaks that Cook County property owners can consider if they don’t qualify for the Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption.

These include:

  • Primary residence
  • Disabled persons
  • Home improvement
  • Disabled veterans
  • Returning veterans

Property owners can also appeal their property taxes to lower them at various points in the process.