Taking responsibility for your own property tax bill

June 16, 2014


When Illinois became a state in 1818, the Illinois Constitution allowed the state and local taxing districts to tax property in direct proportion to its value. The property tax is the largest single tax in Illinois, and is a major source of the tax revenue for local government taxing districts. Every person and business in Illinois is affected by property taxes whether by paying the tax or receiving services or benefits that are paid for by property taxes.

Anyone who attends public school, drives on roads or streets, uses the local library, has police protection, has fire protection services, or benefits from county services, receives services paid for, at least in part, by property taxes. Find here The Illinois Property Tax System: A general guide to the loyal property tax.

Regardless of which of Illinois’ 102 counties you live in, receiving your county’s tax bill is not an occasion one looks forward to. With this in mind, on Tuesday, June 10 the Northern Illinois Patriots featured at its monthly meeting at Austin’s Fuel Room in Libertyville: Martin Paulson, Lake County Tax Assessor and David Stollman, Lake County Board member and Republican candidate for Lake County Treasurer. Together they described the step-by-step process used to determine property tax bills and the trends of which all taxpayers should be aware.

Sales information and property data collection start in the Township Assessors’ Offices and occur also at the County and State level. Each level of government keeps records of transactions for determining individual property value and the collective township and country valuations. Property owners can appeal their assessments at each level, using either the actual recent purchase price of a property or sales of comparable properties that have occurred in the previous three years.

The Office of the Lake County Tax Assessor offers a Tax Advocate Program that is unique to Lake County. Property Tax Information is readily available for Lake County residents here. Its user-friendly site offers the ability to view videos, view all assessments and detailed parcel information for a township, and, most importantly, the ability to view comparable property assessments.

These important Property Tax Facts apply to all 102 Illinois Counties:  

  • The assessment process is used to determine each taxpayer’s overall share of the tax burden created by taxing bodies such as villages, schools, townships, park districts, etc.
  • Each taxing body determines the amount they need in property taxes, and that total is divided by the value of all the property in that taxing body’s jurisdiction.  That produces a tax rate, which is then applied to individual properties.
  • Unless taxing bodies reduce spending or lower their tax rate, tax bills will not change.  Taxing bodies are required to hold public hearings prior to adopting their tax levy.  Attending these meetings is important to have a say in the budget process.
  • Money can be saved by applying for homestead exemptions, etc.  Senior exemptions are applicable to all those who are 65 years of age.

The four Property Tax Facts listed above are self-explanatory. But as with all facts questions do arise which require further explanations, such as why the assessed value of a property may go up even though its market value has dropped. Many individuals don’t realize that assessed values are different from “property” or market” values. As township assessors are required by law to use sale prices from the last three years, the assessed value doesn’t necessarily reflect the current real estate market.

Following is a point-by-point summary of the Important information gleamed from the step-by-step presentation about Property Taxes at the Northern Illinois Patriots monthly June meeting:

1. It is the owner’s responsibility to make sure that the assessment is comparable to the assessments of similar properties in your area.

2. Application for any exemptions must be made by owners, if the homeowner’s exemption has not already been applied — a check of the assessment letter or tax bill will indicate what exemptions have been applied.

3. As mentioned previously, the only way taxes can be held in check is if budgets are reduced.  Each taxing body has a budget process and a hearing.  An alert public can insist on reductions in budgets.

4. A new 2013 law mandates that an appraiser cannot represent a petitioner before the Board of Review.  Although anyone can use an appraisal and appear on his own before the Board, it is not within an appraiser’s license to act as an advocate.  If one wants an advocate, then a lawyer must be hired.

5. Illinois has 7,000 units of local government, 40% more units of local government than in any other state, which has driven Illinois’ property tax burden to the second highest in the United States.  It’s past time to consolidate local government.

Any Lake County property owner who thinks that his property is not properly assessed can use the link provided to check that the details of his property are correct. In addition, he can also check for sales and/or assessed values of comparable properties to determine if his assessed value is fairly assessed. If either the details of his property are incorrect or the property is assessed higher than comparable properties, the owner should start at the Township Assessor’s Office for an appeal (when the assessment letter is mailed, the owner has 30 days to appeal). If unsuccessful there, an appeal may be made to the County Assessor’s office.  If unsuccessful there, an appeal may be made at the state level. The Lake County Assessor’s Office link also provides information on the appeal process.

As property taxes are necessary to provide for all services used and enjoyed, it is only right that this tax burden be shared. It is up to taxpayers, however, to make sure that tax bills do fairly reflect property values.

On Tuesday, July 8th, Northern Illinois Patriots will hold its annual fundraiser featuring Adam Andrzejewski, Open the Books Patriot of the Year recipient, at Austin’s, 481 Peterson Road, Libertyville, IL.  Visit this site for more information.

 

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