What’s the saying about death and taxes? Well, you’re still alive — and if you own real estate in Cook County — you owe for property taxes.
Yes, it’s confusing and annoying
Property taxes can and normally are a huge source of frustration and uncertainty for just about everyone. Knowing this, I have gotten my hands dirty digging for answers, and enlisted the help of an expert in the field.
What is the Triennial Assessment?
According to Molly Phelan, a partner at Siegal Jennings here in Chicago, the new assessments have been all over the board – some properties have gone up as much as 200%, while others have had their assessed values dropped lower than the previous triennial assessment.
Every three years, each community in Cook County gets reassessed. The year following the reassessment, it actually hits our tax bills. Here are when each area gets reassessed:
- Entire City of Chicago
- Assessed in 2018 and every 3 years thereafter (2021, 2024, etc.)
- Reflected in actual tax bills starting in Summer 2019
- North Suburbs (Every other Cook County city, north of North Ave)
- Assessed in 2019 and every 3 years thereafter (2022, 2025, etc.)
- Reflected in actual tax bills starting in Summer 2020
- South Suburbs (Every other Cook County city, south of North Ave)
- Assessed in 2020 and every 3 years thereafter (2023, 2026, etc.)
- Reflected in actual tax bills starting in Summer 2021
How and where to appeal your Cook County taxes
There are two options to file a property tax appeal. The first step is the Cook County Assessor and the second is the Cook County Board of Review — appeal deadlines are rolling and depend on which township you are in.
You can view the schedule on AppealMyTaxes.com to see if you can still file an appeal with the assessor for this year. The good news is that if you miss the Assessor deadline, you can still file at the Board of Review, and as of July 18, everyone in Cook County can still file an appeal at the Cook County Board of Review. Please note: some townships close on July 30.
Can you file every year?
The short answer is yes. Residential property owners can and should file an appeal every year to make sure their taxes remain the lowest possible. Despite what you may have been told or believed, this can be something that is protested every year, not just once every three years.
How to do it yourself
If preferred, anyone can try to do it themselves. They just need to ask if it’s worth the time and effort to do so. If they choose to, owners can find lower assessed comparable properties on the assessor’s site, and file an appeal themselves to the Assessor and/or Board of Review.
Why use a tax attorney?
There are several reasons to do so:
- It is a win-win – you only pay if the attorney reduces your assessed value, and nothing if they are unable to
- The “time value of money” — you’re time is likely worth more doing something else
- You won’t miss deadlines since a professional is doing it for you
- You don’t have to educate yourself on the ins & outs of argument strategy and procedure
Of the several tax appeal firms out there, I have found the best option to be AppealMyTaxes.com. Most firms will do some research and only charge you if they end up saving you money, but this firm does quite a bit more than that.
What makes AppealMyTaxes.com different?
Some of the things that stand out to me are:
- 24/7 access to your own property dashboard provides you with real-time updates and next steps
- A free check of homeowner exemptions
- A more reasonable cost structure
- 33% of the savings if it is your assessment year (i.e. for the north suburbs in Cook County this year) — this cost is on par with many firms
- Only 22% if your assessment year was last year (i.e. City of Chicago residents this year), and only 11% if your reassessment year is next year — fyi, most firms will charge 33% regardless of how many years are left before the reassessment year
- A systematic approach and a streamlined process
- Seasoned Cook County property tax attorneys working on your behalf
- Property owners can file a property tax appeal in 3 minutes. All you need is your address and credit card
They have a $25 filing fee, per property. The fee is refundable if there is no tax reduction, or it is applied to the overall fee if there is. As an example, if you live in the north suburbs of Cook County, and they are able to save you $1,000, you would be charged a $25 filing fee and a subsequent $308 (equalling $333, or 33%) for the 33% savings they were able to get for you.
What to do about property taxes right now
Start where you stand. Every single property in Cook can file an appeal. Register whatever property you would like to appeal taxes on at appealmytaxes.com (you will be charged $25/property) to initiate the appeal. By filing immediately, you won’t miss any coming deadlines for 2019 and will be notified in the future of all upcoming filing deadlines in future years.
Maybe you have a homeowner’s exemption
You are eligible for an exemption for any property you currently own and occupy. Wondering if you have a homeowner’s exemption? Here’s how to check:
- Go to the Cook County Treasurer’s site and click on “Search by Property Address”
- Type in your full address as directed, then hit enter
- The search should return your “PIN” (your Property Identification Number, a 14 digit number in the format of 00.00.000.000.0000 that the county uses to identify your specific property), your correct home address, your name and mailing address
- Click on “View your Property Tax Information” to see an overview of your current bill
- You can also view and download your most current actual property tax bill by clicking on “Tax Year 2018 Second Installment”. Your bill will show you what township you’re in, where your taxes are going, and what exemptions you currently have
Should you not have a homeowner’s exemption, click here to go to the fillable and printable PDF form for the Taxpayer Exemption Application. As this form notes, you’ll need to print, sign and mail the form (yes, snail mail) to one of the addresses listed.
Note: you can even request an exemption up to three years prior to the current year, starting with whatever year you owned and occupied the property as of January 1st of that year. The form you’ll need for that is the Homeowner Exemption Certificate of Error Application.
I always recommend that you send these with a tracking number to prove they arrived at the assessor’s office. Here are the links for the assessor sites for the other Chicago metro counties: Lake, Will, Kane, Dupage and McHenry.
Who likes paying taxes? Nobody. There are multiple reasons to own real estate however, and while you will need to pay your property taxes, these are ways to try to keep them as low as possible.
Thank you to Molly Phelan of AppealMyTaxes.com for her valuable contributions to this article.
Dave Nimick has been a realtor since 2001, running a thriving business based largely on repeat/referral business. He always maintains a shortlist of quality professionals that have personally provided him with excellent service at a reasonable price. He also loves being the only resource his clients and friends ever need when looking for a trusted tradesperson. He welcomes speaking with anyone that would value this level of service.