Are you a senior-citizen homeowner who recently received the second installment of your 2014 property tax bill in the mail from the Cook County Treasurer?
Did you carefully read the bill? Not just the bottom line about what you owed on August 3, 2015. Did you read the small print under how your taxes are calculated?
If you are 65 years of age, or older, look under the “Tax Calculator” heading at the bottom of the bill. This is where the bill lists the Homeowner’s Exemption, Senior Citizen
Exemption and Senior Assessment Freeze Exemption that can save you hundreds of dollars.
Every Cook County homeowner who resides in his or her own home is eligible for the Homeowner’s Exemption, which can cut your real estate taxes. For example, the exemption for a typical North Side single-family home on the 2014 property tax bill amounted to a $478 tax cut.
However, this 70-year-old homeowner, along with possibly hundreds of other seniors, forgot to apply for the Senior Citizen Exemption for the past three years.
Alerted by his lawyer, the senior, who is living on a fixed income, filled out the necessary forms available at the Cook County Assessor’s office. The forms also are available on-line at the assessor’s website: www.cookcountyassessor.com, or call 312-443-7550 for information.
“The Senior Citizen Exemption provides tax relieve by further reducing the equalized valuation of an eligible residence,” noted Michael Griffin, an attorney who specializes in all types of tax assessment appeals. Call: 312-943-1789.
When you apply for this exemption, you must submit a copy of your driver’s license or another document that proves your age with the application.
Seniors who receive a Senior Citizen Exemption automatically qualify for a Homestead Exemption and do not have to separately apply for that exemption. However, seniors must reapply for the Senior Citizen Exemption every year.
Because he took the time to apply, the diligent senior recently was issued Certificates of Error for the tax years of 2011, 2012 and 2013. The certificates mean he will received a total tax refund of $880.85 that will be subtracted from the second installment of the 2014 tax bill on his house.
“If the senior citizen had annual household income of less than $55,000 over those years, he also may be eligible for a Senior Assessment Freeze Exemption, which could cut hundreds of additional dollars off his tax bill,” Griffin noted.
The Senior Freeze allows homeowners who are 65 years of age or older and can prove they have income of less than $55,000 to apply for a freeze of the equalized assessed valuation (EAV) of their home.
The freeze applies to the year preceding the year in which they first apply and qualify for the exemption. If a senior applies in 2015, and qualifies for the exemption, the EAV on his or her home would be frozen at the 2014 EAV level.
Other property tax exemptions also are administered by the Cook County Assessor’s Office, including several assessment breaks for veterans, disabled vets and other disabled people:
• The Disabled Veterans’ Homestead Exemption allows for up to a $70,000 reduction in equalized assessed valuation for federally approved, specially adapted housing. This exemption is administered and certified by the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
• The Disabled Veterans’ Standard Homeowner Exemption allows for an annual reduction of $2,500 or $5,000 in a property’s EAV.
• The Disabled Persons' Homeowner Exemption allows for an annual $2,000 reduction in EAV.
• A Returning Veterans' Homeowner Exemption is also available to veterans returning from active duty. This exemption allows for a $5,000 reduction in EAV and may be received in addition to any of the other exemptions referenced above.
For details on all exemptions available through Assessor's Office visit: http://www.cookcountyassessor.com/exemptions.aspx
Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. For more information, visit www.escapingcondojail.com.