Useful information for senior and other taxpayers, Proposals for assessment caps and tax reform

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Here:Real deal on tax exemptions and bills

Tax appeal deadline watch for next.

December 2, Wednesday, 6:30 pm. Cook County Tax Board of Review Commissioner and State Senator Kwame Raoul host a tax appeal workshop and appeals opportunity at Kenwood Academy, 5015 S. Blackstone (rec. using parking lot entry).
With a considerable tax increase passed by the city for 2016 and concerns also about assessment increases in our township this year in the 20-30 percent range while value/sale price of homes have stayed steady, this is the time for all to see if they can appeal. (Appeal deadline for this year is December 9.) Please bring your tax bills including the Property Identification Number (PIN) and any reasons or evidence such as pictures and comparison with nearby properties that can show that your increased assessment is not justified. There will also be information about senior, homeowner and other freezes for which yo may qualify and require annual filing., 312 643-5540.

There is a new one-stop website for all recorded information on all property in Cook County:

For those eligible seniors who might like to take advantage of this real estate tax deferral. If you are over 65, have income under 55,000, and have the required insurance, the program can allow you to defer your property taxes until your property is sold. You must reapply each year and the deadline in March 1. Go the the following link for more information and to download the necessary forms. Please share this information with others who could benefit from this program.

Also: Senior Freeze and Exemption programs- download at
The Chicago Department of Family and Support Services reminds Chicago residents 65 years and older that the deadline is approaching to apply for the Senior Citizen Exemption and Senior Freeze Exemption on their real estate taxes.

The Herald printed a 160+ page supplement of the assessment on properties in HP township. It can be used to compare with other properties, although it does not break down by units in association buildings. Generally assessment listed is 10% of official value. Use information in the websites or your tax bill to see exactly where your taxes go, and the debt and pension loads of the taxing units (providing they have supplieded the legally mandated information).

July 18, Wednesday, 6:30 pm. Tax Appeal Forum for Hyde Park Township. Hyde Park High School gym, 1955 E. 75th St. Bring PIN and other info.

The six Regional Senior Service Centers offer one-stop assistance to older Chicagoans who want to take advantage of these popular tax-relief programs.

The centers staff can help you determine if you qualify, prepare, copy and notarize your application form and the required documentation, saving time and the possible cost of notarization.

Illinois law now requires senior citizens to reapply annually to receive and retain both the exemption and the freeze on the equalized assessed value of their principal residence.

The deadline for filing applications is March 28. Additional information about the programs and the documentation that must accompany the application, including copies of recent real estate tax bills and acceptable proofs of age, can be found at .

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate contacting the Senior Information, Advocacy, and Assessment helpline at
(312) 744-4016.

The 2011 Senior Freeze application and the 2011 Senior Exemption application are online at the Cook County Assessor's website; The filing deadline is March 28th.

Real deal on tax exemption and bills

CookCounty Assessor opens Hyde Park township for property tax appeals. Complaints due 12/10

CookCounty property tax bills mailed November 11 2010, due 12/13. 1st installment for 2010 seven weeks later.

Homeowner Exemption amounts that were applied to tax bills were correct. Once a homeowner receives the Homeowner
Exemption, they will continue to receive the exemption every year if their residency does not change. There is no need
to file a Homeowner Exemption Certificate of Error form, unless the Homeowner Exemption does not appear on
a second-installment tax bill.

Taxpayers are not required to visit our downtown or suburban branch offices if their exemption does not appear on their bill.
Homeowner Exemption Certificates of Error forms may be downloaded from our Web site
or they contact our office to have a form mailed to them. Applications may also be returned via mail.

Time permitting, taxpayers may receive an adjusted bill – otherwise they can pay their bill in full and receive a refund
for the amount of the exemption.

Pay taxes at Chase outlets, no longer LaSalle Bank, take payments free. Treasurer's website. For more, including new online payment, see Helpline, click Taxes in its index.

Property owners in Hyde Park Township can appeal their tax assessments with the Cook County Board of Review until June 2 2009, 5 pm. Residential owners do not need a lawyer (but many, or buildings often go in together with a lawyer). Recommended: photos, proof of sale prices nearby, appraisals, assessed valuation of comparable properties in the neighborhood, proof of ameliorating circumstances including damage from fire, floe, demolition or strutual damage. Filing forms are at Room 601, 118 N. Clark St. or call 312 603-5542.

You can appeal your property taxes to the County Board of Appeals-- This board has a record of a 2 in 3 chance of reductions vs appealing through the Assessors Office, because its mandate is for uniformity and equity in assessment. Contact the Board to do initial filing. They will expect you to have your Assessment Notice PIN number and property pics available, evidence of anything extenuating such as damage, real estate appraisal. You will be notified of your "hearing" date, but need not attend. Any savings will be in the form of a rebate on the part due in September, not the current March bill, and can go in form of a directive to your moorage escrow holder. The Board will do the work for you if you have 6 or fewer units and wish to file "pro se". If you have more (or fewer, too, hiring and using a lawyer is recommended by some, disrecommended by other lawyers. Hint: many going in together, with or without a lawyer, helps because the review basis is comparability. You cannot appeal on line. The Appeals Board has several offices, that for Chicago is at 188 N. Clark. You can file without an attorney but associations are encouraged to team up with one. If you still disagree, you can go the State "ETAB" board of appeals, after which you can go to court.

See in this page! Mayor Daley has joined the call for the cap and added some other ideas to make assessment "fair" and of less detriment to lower income and senior homeowners, while he also "shot" the messenger, the Assessor. But much deeper reform of both assessment and reliance on property taxes is needed, most civic reports say, and part of the problem is the steep growth in residential values while commercial and industrial have stagnated in the city (a reason for the 53rd TIF...)--there will, of course, be consequences of shifting tax burden to commercial and industrial parcels.

Many other longer-term approaches are being tried. See the Ending Homelessness page (which covers much more) and in Community News report on the April Community Development Conference. Alderman Preckwinkle has said her main emphasis is a percentage set aside for affordable housing in all new development. With the pace of such to the north, this should help reduce pressure as there is growing interest across the income spectrum in moving to these redeveloping neighborhoods.


Material is regularly sent to the Conference by the Office of Cook County Assessor James M. Houlihan. There is a yearly program of tax exemptions. Ask the Assessor's Office for the latest version of Understanding Your Assessment, A guide for Cook County homeowners. From 118 N. Clark. 3rd Floor, 60602, 312 443-7550.

Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas urges tax payers to take advantage of every way to keep taxes low.

Tax advice by Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas. June 7, 2006 Herald

Home buyers instinctively set up electric, gas, phone and water accounts. But it is just as important to get a handle on your property taxes, too. Doing so will save you time, hassles and money.

That's why I created a "Top 10 List" of things all homeowners (new and old) need to know to manage tax bills and keep them as low as possible:

  1. PIN: Your property has a specific 14-digit Property Index Number (PIN) that corresponds to the real-estate legal description. The PIN is used in mapping, assessing and tax billing. Use your PIN when paying your bill or contacting our office. Be sure the PIN on your tax bill is the one on your deed.
  2. Name/Address Change: Even if you pay through your mortgage escrow, you should receive your bill so that you also receive tax-saving exemption applications and any notice if the company fails to pay.
  3. Exemptions: You can save hundreds of dollars, even thousands of dollars each year depending on whether you quality for the homeowner, senior and/or senior assessment freeze exemptions. Apply through the Assessor's Office.
  4. Website: Check your payment status, search for refunds, study your exemption history, all at Checking on refunds is especially important if you just bought or refinanced, when many a title company and the new mortgage company might pay. Also, find forms for services answers to most property tax questions.
  5. Phone: Our 24-hour automated phone system at 312-443-5100 offers you tax information, payment status and refund information in English, Spanish and Polish.
  6. Payment locations: With Chase Bank we currently have more than 285 across Chicagoland.
  7. Avoid Duplicate Payments: If you refinance your mortgage or pay taxes through your mortgage company, make sure there is no duplicate payment (such as your mortgage company paying and then your making a payment).
  8. Mortgage Escrow: If your taxes are paid through an escrow account, verify that the company gets it right. Use our phone or web system to confirm payment. Why? Mortgage companies make more than 3,000 payments on the wrong properties each year in Cook County alone!
  9. Refunds: Look for them at our automated phone system at 312 443-5100 and at
  10. Appeals: You can appeal your assessment through the Cook County Assessor's Office or the Cook County Board of Review. Check their websites or call their offices to learn how to file and which month your township is "open" for filing appeals.

Please call our office, visit our website or send us an email at "Contact Us" a if you have any questions. Send your question to Count on Us Tax Tips, Cook County Treasurer, 118 N. Clark St., Suite 112, Chicago, IL 60602-1332.


Caps and Tax Appeals

Since local residents have been hit by assessments up to and sometimes over 100 percent for 2004, the following material is of special interest- even if yours went down a bit this year only after the tax cap was passed mid 2004. .

The Assessor has had introduced in Springfield a major reform act (really a cap and revision to Exemption) that he calls a first step to tax reorganization. Both of these are described below. (Members of the Cook County Board have their own proposal for reform and cap.) Houlihan pressed his plan at a rally at Operation Push January 10.

Interest was high in early 2005 in light of very hefty assessment increases in Hyde Park. Aldermanic offices are ready to facilitate, provide information on tax appeals. Note that only about 8 percent of appeals are successful. In some associations, owners ban together to hire a lawyer to shepherd appeals.


You are encouraged by the assessor's office to inquire and apply now for exemptions (although they may ask you to wait until the booklet is mailed to all taxpayers- March?) concerning 2004's program. The forms and instructions are sent to current applicants in January. We have not included the forms, which are specific to individual taxpayers. If you did not apply or qualify last year, you may send in for the forms and a complete booklet. If you haven't gotten forms by May 1, call 312 443-7550 and request one. The Taxpayer Services number is 312 744-7550, or 312 443-7550.

The two main exemptions are the Senior Citizen Exemption and the Senior Citizen Assessment Freeze. The exemption gentiles qualified senior citizens to a reduction of $2,500 in th equalized assessed value resulting in approximately $250 in reduced property taxes. Added to the Homeowner Exemption (automatically) may save up to $750 total in reduced property taxes. But you have to file each year. NB: the freeze is only on the EAV, not on the multiplier a tax body may use. The Senior Freeze number is 312 603-6600.

Exemption qualifications:

Born before a certain year-was 1937, now may be 1939? Continued occupancy for ten years.
For Freeze: 65+ in 2003. Total household income below certain amount- was $40,000. (This the gross income of all who lived in the house in the preceding year.) Owned/held equitable leasehold or interest during entire year including Jan. 1 of both years and used the property as principal residence both January 1s. Have been liable for taxes on the property that and the previous year. Included in income: gross income of everyone living in the house in the previous year, capital gains or losses, farm income, net rental, business income or loss. Excluded from income: alimony, gifts, child support, circuit breaker taxes, damages, energy assistance payments, income tax refunds, nursing home assistance grants, IRA rollovers, lumps from inheritances or insurance, borrowings, reverse mortgages, foster parent/grandparent payments, veterans benefits, Workers Compensation.

There is also a Deferral program, if you are senior with income under $25,000 and meet other qualifications. 312 443-5100. For information on the Circuit Breaker Program, contact the Illinois Department of Revenue, 800 624-2459.


What is the Earned Income Tax Credit? Call 311 or visit

Owe less tax an get cash back from the IRS through Earned Income Tax Cretdit. Even if you don't owe income tax, you can get the credit and cash!

Does your family earn up to $40,463 with one child? You may get $3,043.
Does your family earn up to $45,295 with two children? You may get up to $5,5028 back.
Does your family earn up to $48,279 with three or more children> Youmay get up to $5,657 back.
Are you at least age 25 and under age 65, without children, and earning up to $18,440? You may get up to $457 back.
(Investmetn income cannot exceed $3,100 for the year.

Get your taxes done for free! if you earn less than $50,000, individual less than $25,000. Call 311. Closest locations- Quad Communities Center for Working Families 4804 S. Cottage Grove.

Annual cap on assessments passes

Signature of the cap bill promises short-term relief from assessment increases that averaged 33 percent this year and far more for many homeowners who are still appealing to the county's Appeal Board. However, the law does not affect this year's tax bills, will be reviewed in 3 years, and doesn't get to the heart of the matter, lawmakers and collectors say. Illinois school funding is at the center of the problem, many say: unlike most states, Illinois homeowners/property owners bear the brunt of school funding. State Representative and Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (25th) as quoted in the Herald: The reality of it is that our tax structure is broken and I'm one of those people who think it needs to be fixed....The reason is that our school finance system relies more heavily on property taxes and the state picks up the smaller share unlike other states. The result is serious inadequacies."

Cook County Assessor James M. Houlihan and Citizens United for Tax Reform pushed the Neighborhood Preservation Homeowner Exemption (7% annual cap-still 22% compounded triennially). These have information and updates on the above.

May 26, 2004, the Illinois Senate passed the final bill capping most assessments in Cook County at 7% in any one year. Critics say it shifts the burden to businesses and homeowners who do not experience large jumps in assessments, supporters say it restores a balance lost in recent years and helps hard-socked homeowners and preserve stability in high-demand neighborhoods. The bill has been signed into law by Governor Blagojevich. On July 13 the Cook County Board presumably accepted "opt-in" to the program. The cap will apply in Chicago to the 2nd-installment tax bills received autumn 2004.

Key features: 2003 bill effects

2004 tax year effects

The bill, pushed in the Senate by Emil Jones, passed by a bare 30 votes. Republicans said it will increase Cook County business tax by more than $400 million and noted that this is far from comprehensive property tax overhaul.

What is exempted is only $20,000, so that expensive homes with big assessment increases will likely see annual assessment increases greater than 7%. Counties will have to "opt in."


Background: Last winter Cook County Assessor James M. Houlihan sent a letter asking residents, especially homeowners to write their representatives to pass the Neighborhood Preservation Homeowners Exemption (NPHE). This is intended to give homeowners more stable and predictable property tax bills . It will be a cap, so that value of homes would not increase more than 7 % in any year. The Assessor believes that this can only be a stopgap step in tax restructuring. Note that 2002 would be the new base year (not 1977), but taxable value would grow at a maximum of 7 % each each year. The current Exemption cap of $4,500 would be lifted and the exemption would become the difference between current taxable value and the 2002 adjusted base year taxable value with a minimum of $4,500. Triennial assessment would be eliminated. Dramatic increases would stop, although in depressed times the taxable value would begin to catch up to actual value.
Notice: the Assessor's Community Liaison for Senior Citizens informed us that tax assessment for 2004 would be steep--he was right! [and this continues year after year, with no agreement on what is the right cap and its provisions].
There are some alternatives: contact 312 603-5966 or Closest office: Downtown, 118 N. Clark St. room 301, 312 443 7550, TDD 312 603-6181.

Application of the Homeowner Exemption From the Cook County Assessor's Office.

The Homeowner Exemption was created by state statue in 1978 to protect homeowners from inflationary increases in the value of their homes. When inflation accelerated in the 1970's, it had its greatest impact on home values, resulting in the price of owner-occupied residential property rising faster than the prices of other types of property. The state responded by enacting the homestead exemption, which excluded from taxation any increase up to $1,500 in equalized assessed valuation over what it was in 1977, of owner-occupied residential property.

Subsequent amendments to the statute allowed for an exemption amount of $3,000 for tax years 1979-1982, and $3,500 for tax years 1983-1990. In 1992 the statute was further amended to allow a $4,500 exemption in Cook County only, effective for tax year 1991, all other counties retained the $3,500 exemption limit.

Today, under the current homeowner's exemption, with the base year of 1977, there is a $4,500 limit on the exemption in Cook County. The exemption eliminates up to $4,500 of the increase in a home's taxable value (equalized value) over what it was in 1977.

Using an estimated tax rate of 7.0% for the City of Chicago, the current homeowner exemption would translate into a savings of $315. With an estimated tax rate of 7.0% and an estimated equalizer of 2.41, the proposed Neighborhood Preservation Homeowner Exemption would produce the following savings:

A home worth $100,000 that has increased in market value 30% to $130,00 could expect a savings of up to $887- an increase of $572 from the current exemption.

... value $100,000 incr. 60% $1,697, 13,82 more...value $150,000 same as 2 cases above, incr. savings of $848 and $2,062 over present respectfully.



Reforming Illinois' Tax Structure by James M. Houlihan, Cook County Assessor, October 2003

Note: this is distinct from the Senate Bill 750 proposed but failed swap of lowered property taxes in exchange for an increased income tax increase from 3 to 5%.

Assessor Houlihan recognizes that Illinois' over-reliance on property taxes unfairly burdens taxpayers and fails to provide adequate funding for many of our schools. That is why he has been working with a variety of tax policy, education and planning experts to develop consensus on a tax policy initiative.

Illinois needs a tax structure:

Our over-reliance on property taxes unfairly burdens individual taxpayers, fails to provide adequate funding for our schools and discourages economic growth.

Illinois mus follow these principles for tax reform:

Illinois ranks 49th out of all 50 states in the percentage of state funding for schools.

One proposal for Illinois:


A tax reform bill being pushed now is Senate 750

This bill would shift a good part of the burden from property to income taxes. (Caution: all major taxes and "service fees" stand a good likelihood of either being regressive or creating severe burdens on large sets of the population and business and creating market distortions.) Bill 750 is supported in large part to rescue education as well as cut the state deficit but, at least as introduced but was considered too broad and make the lawmakers and legislature too vulnerable to charges of tax hike, especially since earlier-time pledges to use the first income tax to partially lower sales taxes and to use the lottery just for schools were not honored. Illinois has one of the very lowest income taxes and is one of only three states that does not tax pensions (this measure would tax amounts over $75,000, it would also extend the sales tax to some areas not currently converted). The income tax would go up to about 8 or 9 percent and allow state coverage of 51% of per pupil school cost, as mandated in the Illinois Constitution. How much property taxes and assessments would go down is not made clear. Senator Raoul is a cosponsor. Representative Currie has called the bill too far sweeping. Governor Blagojevich has threatened to veto it.


Will Congress kill the popular preservation easement--Hyde Parkers have neglected this program and might want to get in under the wire

Hyde Park Herald, August 10, 2005. By Tedd Carrison

Many owners of historic Hyde Park property, long indifferent to a preservation incentive popular in other Chicago neighborhoods, may be spurred to action as an expert predicts legislative cuts will threaten the Landmarks Preservation Council's 24-year-old Preservation Easement Program.

Since 1980, this program has encouraged qualifying homeowners to "donate" the exteriors of their historic houses and courtyard buildings by offering a 10 to 15 percent IRS Income Tax Charitable Deduction. Donated buildings receive a plaque noting their distinction along with preservation guidelines that "run with the land in perpetuity"--indefinitely regulating alterations and additions, even when the properties change hands. "It's the only insurance that a home will remain intact," said Andrew Fisher, the prog dram' director in Illinois. "[Buyers] have to like the property for the house because the house is staying there."

Fisher said the easement program has been popular in many other Chicago-area national registry districts but for unclear reasons, comparatively few Hyde Parkers have embrace it. "Considering how important it is, statistically very few have taken on the opportunity that the program allows," he said.

Maragie Smigel, broker principal and creative director of Hyde Park-based MetroPro Realty said that the many home owners are intimidated by programs that uphold rigid requirements or "stickler issues." She said that some property owners would prefer to forgo even basic structural maintenance than face the threat of fines if repairs go beyond the council's mandates.

Fisher said the program is not that stringent. "It's not that we've stopped expansions," he said. "It's that we've stopped insensitive expansions." While a financial boon to many historic property owners, Fisher said the program is becoming a fiscal drain to federal legislators and will likely be altered in "undesirable" ways as early as September. He hopes that residents previously uninterested or unfamiliar with the program will register before it's too late.

To qualify for the program, applicants must have a "contributing structure," generally 50 years old or older, within a national registry district. Fisher encourages interested parties to peruse LPCI's website at under the link "easements." Further inquiries should go to his direct line at 312 922-1742.


Improvements to the programs in the 2006 legislative session