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Property Tax System Results in Inaccuracies By Nature

By Gary Smith
03/21/2018
Property Tax System Results in Inaccuracies By Nature

Property tax bills use a computer modeling system to assess property values in Cook County, and years of inaccurate assessments, many of which have not been appealed, have led to unnecessary high taxes for many property owners. Because property tax bills are calculated using the assessed value of the property, a process that happens in Cook County once every three years, and varying factors specific to each property mean that no valuation system is perfect, property tax assessments are inaccurate by nature and valuations trend high for most neighborhoods.

Gather Information for the Appeals Process

Assessing the value of a property is done mostly by computer formula so there is a lot of room for error. One of the places it’s common to find error is the information about the property. Factors such as square footage, amount of finished space or the condition of the exterior might not be correct.

The hidden conditions of a property are also a reason to appeal a tax bill that might be too high. If the foundation has a crack or there is some undesirable environmental condition, the value of the property would be lower, and therefore the assessment should be adjusted downward.

Homeowners can ask to see copies of the comparable sales information the assessor used to value their property. And, according to information the Cook County Assessor’s Office gave to The Chicago Tribune, in Cook County, the assessor’s office does not check its work for fairness and accuracy, so the onus is on the property owner to do the homework. When looking through the list of comparables, a homeowner should investigate whether the properties actually are comparable. If a home on the list has a finished basement, that could be raising the assessment of a home that does not.

In fact, the Chicago Tribune compiled and analyzed more than 100 million property tax records from the years 2003 to 2015 and concluded that “residential assessments have been so off the mark for so many years that the credibility of the entire property tax system is in doubt.”

Each municipality will have different procedures and paperwork for filing a property tax appeal. Deadlines also will be different. Property taxes must be paid even if a property owner is going through the appeals process. Failure to pay on schedule could actually cancel the appeals process.

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