Your Ultimate Guide to Real Estate on Chicago's North Shore

Everything You Need to Know About Cook County Property Taxes

money pitIt’s tax appeal time again, and most of us are confused about our property taxes. Why do taxes go up when when home values have gone down? How is my property tax bill calculated? What do they do with the money?

Here’s a small primer on the whole nasty subject, with answers to some of your most burning questions.

Who is in charge of our taxes? Who decides how much we owe and who collects it?

  • The Cook County Assessor value properties, administers exemptions, issues certificates of error for refunds and is the first avanue for assessment appeal.
  • The Cook County Treasurer issues the tax bills, collects the taxes, administers the tax deferral program, issues refunds and handles delinquencies and tax sales.
  • The Cook County Clerk provides information on prior years’ taxes, certifies the tax rates of the levying bodies and handles the tax redemption process.

How is my real estate tax bill calculated?

  • While your assessment determines the share of property taxes you pay, your local taxing bodies determine the overall amount of your taxes by their spending:

Tax Formula:

Assessed Value
X State Equalizer
– Any Exemptions
X Local Tax Rate
= Tax Bill

  • The assessed value is the only number in the formula that you can appeal. In Cook County it equals about 10% of market value.
  • The State Equalizer is applied to Cook County assessments to balance them with the rest of the State, which assesses at 33% of market value.
  • The tax rates are determined by the amount spent by various government bodies.

How can my taxes go up when my home’s value has gone down?

  • Your home’s assessed value is just one part of the equation (above). Your property taxes go to pay for your schools and local municipality. Their expenses don’t go down even if property values do, so they change the other parts of the equation so that they still get the money they need to fund those things.

When are real estate taxes paid?

  • In Illinois taxes are always paid one year in arrears.
  • Tax bills are paid twice a year, in March and in the fall.
  • The first bill is an estimate. It is 55% of the previous year’s total bill.
  • The second bill reflects any adjustments from reassessment or appeal, any changes in the tax rate or State equalizer and deductions for exemptions.

What are the taxpayer exemptions?

Exemptions provide reductions in the equalized assessed value of the property, based on specific qualifications.

  • Homeowner exemption
  • Senior Citizen examption
  • Senior freeze exemption
  • Long time occupant exemption
  • Home improvement exemption
  • Returning veterans’ exemption
  • Disabled verteran’s exemption
  • Disabled person’s exemption

How is your property assessed?

  • Because of the large number of parcels, the Cook County Assessor is unable to evaluate each parcel individually, or even annually. Mass appraisal techniques are used, and assessment is done every three years.
  • Taking into consideration the property size, location and construction, properties are sorted or “classified.” The Assessor then compares the sales prices of similar homes within each neighborhood to arrive at an assessment.
  • Sales price and the square footage of your home are the two most important factors that determine its assessed value.

How do I appeal my assessment?

  • You are entitled to appeal every year.
  • You should always take time to evaluate your assessment in the triennial years (that’s 2013 for New Trier Township).
  • You do not need an attorney to file an appeal.
  • Forms and assistance are available at your County Courthouse or Township Assessor’s office, and on the internet at: and

What constitutes grounds for appeal?

  • Lack of uniformity – comparison to other homes in your class and neighborhood based on dollar per square footage
  • An error in the description of the property that affects square footage – Based on exterior measurement excluding garage, basement and unfinished attics
  • Overvaluation (assessed value is more than 10% of market value, based on recent sale or appraisal.
  • Vacancy/Demolition/Fire Damage

Who Decides Appeals?

  • The Cook County Assessor’s office is the first avenue of appeal. Each township is granted a 30-day filing window each year.
  • The Cook County Board of Review is the second avenue of appeal. They open following the Assessor’s process, provide a 20-day filing window annually for each township and offer an in-person hearing option.
  • The Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board is the third avenue for appeal. You must have filed with either the County Assessor or the Board of Review first for it to accept your case. It has the power to lower or raise your assessement and is located in Springfield.
  • The Cook County Circuit Court is the final option for appeal, and you must choose between it and the Property Tax Appeal Board.

So what does the New Trier Township Assessor Do?

Despite their name, the township assessors do not assess. They provide liaison services between their constituents and the Cook County Assessor’s office and work to ensure assessments are fair and equitable. Their services include:

  • Assistance with appeals
  • Assistance with exemptions and refunds
  • Sales and building permit information
  • Taxpayer of record information
  • Detailed property assessment info and property descriptions
  • Property tax identification numbers (PINs)
  • Tax exempt property listings
  • Plat maps
  • Tax rate information

May 28 is the deadline for property tax appeals in New Trier Township. If you need any help at all with the process, the New Trier Assessor will help you out, and the service is free. Go to the New Trier Township offices at 739 Elm st., Winnetka, call 847-446-8202 or visit their website.

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