Last week I gave you a preview of your 2014 Cook County property taxes but now we have to start worrying about 2015. In case you didn't know it 2015 is the triennial Chicago property tax reassessment, which means the assessor's office is coming up with one of the key numbers that determines your property taxes for the next 3 years - the assessed value of your home. The other key numbers are those factors and rates that I wrote about a couple of years ago: 2012 Cook County Property Taxes: What Just Happened To Chicago. So, you need to be pretty vigilant about how this affects you.
Unfortunately for many of you I should have written this blog post at the beginning of the year but it's never too late to play some of the different angles of the Cook County property tax avoidance game. First, we're going to need a little background information.
They've got Chicago divided up into 8 townships, which has little to do with the community areas that they sometimes share names with:
- Hyde Park
- Lake View
- North Chicago
- Rogers Park
- South Chicago
- West Chicago
They work on the reassessments for these townships one at a time throughout the year. So far this year they've completed the reassessments for Rogers Park, Lake View, Lake, and Hyde Park, so they're half done. The results for West Chicago are being mailed out on July 17. You can see the entire schedule here but you need to click on the 2015 Filing Dates link to see it: Cook County Assessor's Office Appeal Deadlines. Notice that the Hyde Park township deadline is July 16 so those folks still have a couple of weeks.
Once those notices are mailed you have exactly one month to file an appeal - using the first level process. And you will probably want to file an appeal because it's just the Chicago way (I'll go into more detail below) and it really doesn't cost you anything unless you actually win since there are all those attorneys who do this on a contingency basis. The thing is that the way those contingency fees work you are better off appealing in 2015 than any other year because they only charge you 1/2 of the first year savings. In other words, you give up half of one year's savings but you save the money for 3 years if you do this in 2015.
Now, the main reason you want to appeal your assessed value is because all your neighbors will be doing it and he who doesn't loses. You see...the way they calculate property taxes is they figure out how much money they need to bring in through taxes and then they spread those taxes across all the properties in proportion to the assessed values. So even if everyone's assessed value went up by 100% as long as the local government doesn't need any more money and no one appeals their property values everyone's taxes would stay the same. The only way your taxes go up is if your share of the total city property value goes up or if the government needs more money.
So when a bunch of people in the city appeal their reassessments some of them will be successful and their share of the city property value will go down. If you don't appeal your reassessment while everyone else does then your share is definitely going to go up and your taxes with it.
And because the increases in assessed values is not uniform across the city you may be dinged right out of the starting gate. According to the assessor's office some townships are seeing their median assessed value go up by 20% while others will be a lot lower. Those neighborhoods with the larger increases are going to see their share of the property taxes go up for 2015 and if you live in one of those neighborhoods odds are you will too. This is an even more powerful reason to file an appeal.
So the bottom line is that if your reassessment comes out with a higher valuation then just automatically appeal it. Fortunately those contingency property tax lawyers make it easy for you. Oh...and you can indeed file the appeal yourself but, as I found out, those attorneys may actually have some tricks up their sleeves that we don't know: Wow! I Got My Cook County Property Taxes Lowered Even More!
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