Ensuring Property Tax Fairness

Many homeowners wonder, “How do I know if I’m paying more than my fair share of property taxes?”
You don’t. The system isn’t always fair. As Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin explains:

“The assessor’s office makes a lot of assessments and might not get them all right. That’s why it’s important to appeal not just to the assessor’s office but also to the Cook County Board of Review.”

Large crowds of Evanston residents turn out to appeal property tax assessments – Chicago Tribune

The Cook County Assessor and Cook County Board of Commissioners recommend appealing your property taxes as a way of promoting fairness in the system. The commissioners even hold seminars on how to appeal your property taxes. Here’s another reason why appealing your assessment is important.

“The push to overhaul Cook County’s property tax system follows a 2017 Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois investigation that revealed assessments under then-Assessor Joe Berrios were inequitable and regressive. Wealthier homeowners and downtown property owners paid less than their fair share of property taxes, while low-income and minority communities paid more, the investigation found.

“That was partly due to more affluent homeowners successfully appealing their assessments to get lower bills. But when that happens, the property tax burden simply shifted to poorer homeowners, the news outlets’ investigation found.”

 Audit Recommends Ways To Overhaul Cook County Property Tax System – WBEZ

Other studies and reports make the same case, with reports of high-profile commercial buildings assessed at far below their sales price, and a University of Chicago study that estimated the system had shifted $2 billion in property taxes from property owners whose homes were undervalued to those whose homes were overvalued.

DIY vs. Third-Party Service: It’s All about the Comps

Many homeowners try to go it alone and appeal their own property taxes, but may leave hundreds or thousands of dollars on the table. Why?

Unless you have deep knowledge of comparable properties or “comps” in your area and expertise in identifying comparable sales, you may not achieve the results that an experienced and reliable third-party service can obtain. You only pay a portion of any savings you receive, and you pay nothing unless you win. An experienced third-party service can result in your saving thousands of dollars every year, with a compounding effect.  To ensure the maximum reduction in your assessment, be sure to use a service that identifies comps based on the most recent property data purchased directly from Cook County, which is available three times per year.

Cook County encourages you to appeal yourself, directly on their website, but a DIY appeal may not reduce your assessment by more than a small reduction. Their website provides comps, but they may not vary from the same ones used to produce the flawed assessment of your property that you are challenging, so why would you use them?

Why appeal every year? Because housing valuations are always changing and Cook County re-assesses property taxes every three years.

Debunked: If I Overpay, My Local School Benefits

Your local school’s levy is a fixed amount, so if your portion of that levy increases, the portion left to other taxpayers will be reduced. Similarly, a reduction in your total tax bill will not reduce the revenue to your local schools, your reduction will be offset by other taxpayers. You can always donate a portion of your property tax reduction directly to your school. You should be in charge of where your money goes, and you should not pay more than your fair share.

Fixed income Homeowners

We can’t fix the property tax system but you can ensure you’re fairly assessed through a property tax appeal. In the zero-sum math of property taxes, not appealing your assessment can leave you paying for the savings of those who do.

Don’t Pay More Than Your Fair Share

We’ve helped save 12,000+ homeowners over $25 million dollars by assisting in appealing unfairly high property taxes for 35,000+ properties, as well as recouping unclaimed government refunds. We fight for your rights as your financial advocate and serve as a check and balance to government taxation.

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