Every few years, all of the properties within the city of Chicago are reassessed by Cook County for the purpose of establishing a new tax base for the next three-year period. This process often results in property assessment values that are higher than they should be, and it is often in a homeowner’s best interest to appeal the County Assessor’s findings. But what is the best way to do that? We recently sat down with Anastasia Poulopoulos, a friend of The Apostal Group and an attorney specializing in property assessment appeals, and got the full story of how to appeal your property taxes.
AP: In Cook County, everybody’s a good candidate in the year of reassessment. The assessor goes ahead and changes everybody’s assessments every three years. Everyone should take a look and potentially file an appeal, and if you are successful, you get the most bang for your buck. If you get a reduction the first year, that new assessment value is good for three years. So everybody is a candidate and everybody should be looking at it when they get their new notice.
AG: What if your property value has decreased in the new assessment?
AP: Even if that were the case, just because an assessment decreases, the taxes don’t necessarily decrease, because the tax rates go up every year. If rates go up 10%, 15%, even 20% next year, then even if your assessment goes down five percent you’re still going to have a higher overall tax bill. It’s important to remember that 60% of tax money collected in Cook County goes to the schools, and when schools are strapped for cash, very often tax rates go up. So it still may be in your best interest to appeal your assessment.
AG: What should a homeowner do if they are interested in appealing their assessment?
AP: The first thing they should do is contact our office, and preferably they should do it as soon as they receive their new notice. There are deadlines for each district, and if they contact us before the deadline in their district, we would then go ahead and file an appeal for 2015; that would be filed with the assessor’s office. Depending on the results of that initial appeal, we would most likely then proceed to the Board of Appeal. I would take their information, I would email you the documents, proceed to go to the assessor’s office. The total process generally takes about two to eight months. The absolute latest you would hear the result is April 2016.
AG: When can someone expect to see the savings reflected on their tax bill?
AP: Each year, the first installment when we pay our taxes is a set rate: it is set at 55% of what we paid last year. The reason is the results of the reassessments aren’t out yet for the year. So when we get our second installment tax bill in July, that’s the accurate tax bill where you’re seeing everything reflected: the new assessment and the new rate, minus the exemptions and whatever you paid in the first payments. So your full estimated savings is going to show up in the second installment payment in July.
AG: Are there any other ways to lower your tax bill?
AP: The tax rates themselves are something you can’t appeal. Everybody owes the rate that the City and County establish. They do have public hearings that people can go to and voice their opinion on how tax money is spent. That’s where people need to get involved. But because the taxes are based on assessments, appealing your assessment value is really the only way to reduce your individual tax bill.
AG: How long can you expect those savings to last?
AP: In the City of Chicago, the new assessment will be used in 2015-2017 tax bills, payable in 2016-2018. So you’ll be benefiting from that reduced assessed value over the next three years.
AG: What are the odds of a property assessment appeal being successful?
AP: Very good! In Cook County, it’s rare to have no possible reduction. With residential properties, it’s even more rare. Of course there are no guarantees, but my office is at least 90% successful every year with the appeals that we file. And we take on about 98% to 99% of the clients that come to us. At the end of the day, I will tell you if it’s not a viable appeal. If I say, “Yes, we can take on the appeal,” it’s because I think there’s an appeal to be made.
*Photo courtesy of Flickr user Teemu008.
File: property taxes