COOK COUNTY — As Chicago residents are paying higher property taxes this year and more than a million other Cook County residents are receiving new property assessments, many are wondering if there’s anything they can do to lower the bills.
WGN News spoke with the Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi and an expert in appealing property taxes to find out the best ways to deal with the tax burden.
The key is that the best time to appeal is at the assessment, not at the time you pay your bill.
Reassessments are done every three years and are based on the previous three years of home sales in your neighborhood.
Kaegi said there are a few things property owners can do if they think their taxes are unfair.
Check for exemptions
Look at the bottom right hand of your bill and make sure you’re getting all of the exemptions that you’re entitled to.
- If it’s your primary residence, you’re entitled to a homeowners exemption.
- If you’re a senior citizen, you’re also entitled to a seniors exemption.
- There are a variety of other exemptions for long time homeowners and veterans.
If you’re not getting your exemptions, it’s not too late. Kaegi said you can file a certificate of error.
“Then you can get a corrected tax bill and you’ll be paid a refund 6 to 8 weeks from then,” he said.
More on exemptions at Cook County Treasure’s Office Exemption Page
File an appeal
Kevin Fanning handles property tax appeals for the law firm Verros Bersksire.
“There’s been some sticker shock, but now there are some new assessments for the North and Northwest suburbs. I think the important thing is that you take notice of those filing deadlines,” he said.
"If you’ve got a home and your sales price is significantly lower than what your assessment and market value is per the assessor, then you should file an appeal."
Property owners have 30 days to file an appeal with the assessor after they receive their new assessment.
If you like your results, you’re done.
If not, you can file another appeal with the Cook County Board of Review
“It’s very important to take note of those deadlines because if you don’t get your appeal on file, you’re locked out,” Fanning said.
The local tax rate is not something you can dispute, but the assessment is.
“It is confusing,” Fanning said. “It’s hard between the tax rate, the assessment, the Cook County multiplier – there’s a lot of different factors at play. I think the really important thing is understanding what the underlying valuation is, because that’s the part you can actually dispute.”
Fanning is an attorney who handles tax appeals, but you can also appeal you assessment for free on your own.
Kaegi said if you have questions about your assessment, you don’t need to come downtown, all of the information is on the county assessor’s web site.