5 reasons to hire a real estate tax attorney
By James W. Chipman
From understanding complicated laws to knowing how to dispute exorbitant assessments, having an expert on your side can ensure you’re not overpaying when it comes to property taxes.
Property taxes affect us all, whether we’re paying them directly or receiving services or benefits covered by the tax. That’s especially true in Illinois, where property taxes are the 2nd highest in the nation, behind only New Jersey.*
As the owner of a home or a business, your taxes help pay for education, public safety, infrastructure, emergency response and a variety of social services. But you don’t want to pay more than necessary, something a real estate tax attorney can ensure by considering the following factors:
1. Illinois reassessment in 2019: Township assessors are required by law to view, inspect and reassess each property in their jurisdiction once every 4 years. In Cook County, property is reassessed every 3 years. Reassessments ensure assessments are fair and equitable on a countywide basis—given there are typically more individual changes made in general assessment years, significant increases often occur.
2. Vague, complex tax laws: Frequent changes in these laws only compound the problem. Different interpretations can create legal uncertainty and possibly result in different tax consequences for property owners.
3. Differences for businesses vs. residential properties: In Cook County, businesses are assessed at 25% of market value, while single-family homes and multi-family properties are assessed at just 10%. Businesses can be singled out and experience higher tax burdens than residences.
4. Inconsistent, subjective and unknown methods of valuation: Some assessing officials use a “mass appraisal” approach in which a large number of properties are valued simultaneously using standardized procedures. However, one size does not fit all. Many properties are not typical and require special individualized attention.
5. Ability to challenge unfair and excessive assessments: Taxpayers who wish to appeal their assessments have several options. Each option, however, comes with its own set of deadlines. One common mistake many taxpayers make is to wait for the tax bill to arrive in the mail. By then, appeal periods have expired and the only recourse is to pay the tax and wait until the following year to file an appeal.
A real estate tax attorney can represent you in all stages of the property tax appeal process, from the research, preparation and filing to representation before the assessor and local and state boards. The benefits of having an expert on your side heavily outweigh the cost of service, or even worse, the potential cost of making a mistake.
Most people and many attorneys are overwhelmed by the complexity of property taxes. Hiring a real estate tax attorney is the best way to make sure you pay your fair share—and no more.
*Source: Chicago Tribune, April 5, 2018