Senior Tax Exemptions: Apply and Save Money Every Year
UPDATE: Under a state law that took effect in 2019, senior citizens who have applied for and received a Senior Exemption deduction on their property tax bill do NOT have to reapply each year. This blog has been updated to reflect the new law.
With a new property tax season approaching, it’s time to start thinking about exemptions.
Property tax exemptions reduce the portion of the equalized assessed value (EAV) of your property that is subject to tax, thereby lowering your property taxes.
Some exemptions, like the homeowner exemption and the senior exemption, do not require eligible homeowners to reapply every year.
Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption
The Senior Exemption gives tax relief to elderly homeowners by decreasing the taxable value of their homes by an additional $8,000 in EAV, up from $5,000 last year. According to the Cook County Treasurer’s Office, this exemption saves eligible seniors an average of $250 to $300 on their tax bill, in addition to the savings that result from the standard homeowner’s exemption. To qualify for this exemption, Cook County taxpayers must:
- Have owned and occupied the property as of January 1
- Be 65 years old or older during the tax year
To claim this exemption, seniors must submit the Senior Exemption application form, along with documentation that verifies their age and residency and a copy of their recent property tax bill. You can download a copy here. Once you have received the exemption, it will renew each year automatically.
Senior Citizen Assessment Freeze Exemption (a.k.a. Senior Freeze)
Senior citizens with less than $65,000 in annual household income can apply to have their EAV “frozen” at its current level, eliminating the impact of reassessment increases. Eligible seniors are guaranteed a reduction in the value of their homes of at least $2,000 in EAV. To qualify, Cook County senior taxpayers must:
- Have owned and resided in their home on January 1 of the current and prior year
- Have been responsible for the property taxes
- Have earned less than $65,000 in annual household income
To claim this exemption, eligible seniors should complete and return the senior exemption form each year by the February deadline. You can download it here.
Homeowners’ exemptions do not require reapplication each year, but if you purchased a new home and lived there as your primary residence as of January 1, you need to apply for the homeowner’s exemption. The exemption reduces the taxable equalized assessed value (EAV) of your home by $10,000, up from $7,000 last year. To qualify, homeowners must have resided in their home as of January 1 of the tax year in question. The assessor’s office automatically renews this exemption as long as you own the home.
Forgot? Apply for a Certificate of Error
If you have missed exemptions to which you are entitled, you can apply for a Certificate of Error to have the exemptions applied dating back up to three years. Visit the Cook County Assessor’s website for a full list of potential property tax exemptions.
Appeal Your Assessed Value For Maximum Tax Savings
Unless you’ve received a “senior freeze” of your equalized assessed value, you should also appeal your property taxes every year. The downside of the recent increase in exemptions is that the taxing agencies will have to raise tax rates, assessments or both to generate the same amount of revenues. After you have applied for all eligible exemptions, appealing your assessed value is the only way to take the bite out of tax rate increases. If you don’t appeal, you end up underwriting the savings of those who do.
The Cook County Assessor’s Office has acknowledged that many initial assessments are basically a rough draft and encourage property owners to appeal.
Don’t risk paying more than your fair share. Contact us for a free review of your property taxes. We can also make sure that you have applied for every exemption for which you are eligible.