Understanding your property tax bill

For those of you living in Cook County, you’ve probably received your 2008 tax bill over the last few weeks.  I wanted to touch on a couple of points relating to this.  Most of you probably figure that given the recession and property values going down, you’re shocked to see your tax bill go up!  So how can this be?

taxesThere are multiple reasons.  First of all, this bill represents the 2008 tax year.  So the bill for the assessment done reflected home values as of January 1, 2008, which was before the housing market completely dropped.  All Illinois property taxes are paid in arrears.  That means we pay this year for what happened last year.  We won’t pay for this year until next year.  Better than prepaying, right?

Also, this bill was based on your home’s assessed value (as I mentioned before).  When home values were on the rise earlier in the decade, the assessments went up, too.  When this happened, lawmakers in Springfield gave every county the authority to impose a ceiling on assessment increases.  Well, Cook County was the only county to take advantage of this (Sorry, Lake!)  But the ceilings are slowly being phased out and the assessments are now allowed to begin to increase again.

Because of the housing crisis, it is possible that assessments will start to go down.  However, you will not see that reflected until you receive your bill in 2010 for the 2009 tax year.   There is a chance that even if your assessment does go down next year, your bill could still go up.  WHY?  Well, aside from being taxed on your value, you have to take into account any recent tax hike referendums, what level of financial support is going to local schools, and general assessments across a community.  (Visit your local town/village’s Web site for more complete information.)

So you’re probably wondering if you can appeal.  Unfortunately, you can’t.  If there is a mathematical error on the bill, you absolutely can.  But it’s too late to appeal your assessments for this bill.  Lake County residents have 30 days from receiving their assessment to appeal their assessments for 2009.  Visit Lake County’s site for more information on how to do this.

If you don’t pay your taxes, just like your mortgage, your house can be taken away from you and auctioned off at a sheriff’s sale.  But make sure to do your research to determine if you are being fairly taxed.  If you have any more questions, be sure to visit me online.