By James W. Chipman

Unfavorable PTAB rulings often lead to an uphill battle in court, but working with an experienced property tax attorney can ensure you are well-positioned for a positive outcome.

When taking a case to the Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB), it’s only natural to hope for the best. However, not everyone receives the result they desire. Fortunately, any party dissatisfied with a PTAB decision can appeal it.*

The PTAB is an independent state agency that hears appeals from boards of reviews on the valuation of assessed property. Appeals are heard “de novo,” which means a fresh start. A new administrative record is made at the PTAB that includes all of the evidence and testimony offered by the taxpayer and the board of review whose decision was appealed. The PTAB operates informally with relaxed rules of evidence and practice.**

FOOL’S ERRAND?

A word to the wise is in order for anyone who wishes to appeal their PTAB decision—courts apply strict standards of review to the decision of an administrative agency such as the PTAB.

The court’s only job on appeal is to look at the administrative record and see if any errors were made by the PTAB. The appealing party has the burden of convincing the court the decision was wrong. No new or additional evidence can be submitted by anyone. There is a rebuttable presumption that the PTAB’s decision was correct, and unless an opposite result is clearly evident to the court, the decision will be upheld.

Courts won’t reassess witness credibility, reweigh evidence or make an independent determination of facts. PTAB legal interpretations aren’t binding on a court, but they are given great weight and deference.

Conventional wisdom may tell you that overturning a PTAB decision is an impossible feat, but the truth is, they are reversed more often than you think. Sometimes, the best offense is having the best defense.

AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION

Some taxpayers are frustrated after losing their PTAB appeal because they felt like they had the best evidence and made a good presentation at the hearing.

PTAB decisions are based on the evidence and testimony that was made part of the record. Thus, creating a complete record that accurately reflects arguments is critical—everything filed and discussed at a hearing becomes a permanent part of the record that follows you through the court review process, including the reasons why you lost the appeal. Therefore, building a defensible record is the single most important thing you can do to prepare for a PTAB or future court appeal.

There are no guarantees in the property tax appeal process. However, if you want to increase your chances of success, consult a property tax attorney who will work with you from start to finish. They’ll ensure that even if you get a negative result from the PTAB, you’ve got a good record upon which to pursue a court challenge.

Learn more about what follows the Property Tax Appeal Board by contacting Donald T. Rubin at DTRubin@GCT.law or 312.696.2641.

Sources:
*35 ILCS 200/16-195
**35 ILCS 200/16-180