How to Set Up a Tax Maintenance Schedule to Re-assess Your Property Tax
Property taxes can be confusing. They vary based on the city, county and school district you’re located in, and frustratingly, they fluctuate often — sometimes every year.
To make matters worse, there’s seemingly no logic behind what you pay. One homeowner might pay two or even three times their neighbor, all because their home is “assessed” at a higher value.
Fortunately, as a homeowner, you have the power to appeal these assessments and, subsequently, lower your property taxes as a result. All it takes is enforcing a consistent tax maintenance schedule and:
- Knowing your county’s property tax assessment timelines.
- Filing an appeal for your property value.
While you can’t outright control what your taxes are, you can control what your property is valued at. By appealing the assessed value the county puts on your home, you may be able to lower that valuation and, thus the tax burden you pay on the home.
Property Tax Value
Not sure what your property tax value is? The starting point is the most recent sale for the property. The sale price of the property, together with the value and sales of other similar sized homes in the area, is what will influence your home’s overall assessed value. This value will then be used to determine your overall tax burden for the year.
A few notes on property values:
- Property values vary by home type. Condos, new construction, existing properties and other types of homes will differ — even in the same neighborhood.
- Property taxes are paid for the previous year. So if you buy a home today, you won’t pay taxes on the property until early next year.
- Your property tax value may change year over year. You likely won’t pay the same amount annually.
New properties — particularly those in new developments or communities — may see more fluctuation on property taxes, especially at the beginning. It typically takes 2 to 3 years to determine an appropriate value for these newer areas, so owners might see a relatively small tax bill up front and a significantly higher one a few years down the road.
Property Tax Deadlines
In Cook County, you’ll get your property tax bill in two installments. The first, which accounts for 55% of the previous year’s taxes, is due by Nov. 1 and is delinquent anytime after 5 p.m. on Dec. 10.
The second installment, which should include the entire remaining balance of your tax bill, is due by Feb. 1 and is delinquent after 5 p.m. April 10. The deadline to appeal your property value — and your tax bill — depends on your exact neighborhood. (See below for more detail)
How to Reduce Your Property Tax Bill
The first step to lowering your property value — and your tax burden — is to find the appeal deadline for your specific neighborhood. Check out the Cook County Assessor’s office for a full breakdown of deadlines.
Next, you’ll want to:
- Ask your agent to access MLS and pull 5-10 recent home sales in your neighborhood — ideally they lowest-priced ones they can find. The homes should be similar in size, age and style to yours.
- Pull the appropriate appeal forms for your property. You may want to work with a tax lawyer to ensure you’ve filled them out properly and gathered the right evidence, or you can opt to e-file your appeal on your own.
- Wait to hear back from the assessor’s office. You may need to provide additional documentation or appear for an in-person hearing.
Typically, using a tax lawyer or property tax appeals expert is the best way to lower your tax burden. Keep in mind that they will likely charge a fee for their services. If they’re able to save you thousands in added taxes, though, it may be worth the investment.
Often tax appeals expert will charge a fee on your savings, so remember to ask if this formula can be applied to your case as well!