Your Property Taxes with Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas

Seniors Earning Less than $65,000 per Year May be Missing a Big Property Tax Break

By: Maria Pappas

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local NewsA Maywood senior received more than $13,000 to spend on home improvements after my office helped him secure a property tax refund. Michael Warner was a guest on my weekly radio show, “Black Houses Matter,” on WVON-AM 1690. Like many Cook County residents, Warner had no idea he was eligible for two types of tax relief, the senior citizen and the senior freeze exemptions. “I never knew about it,” Warner told me.

The senior citizen exemption is a credit for homeowners who are 65 years or older. The less common senior freeze exemption is for homeowners who are over 65 and whose household income is less than $65,000 per year. “This exemption ‘freezes’ the senior citizen’s property’s equalized assessed value the year that the senior citizen qualifies for the exemption,” according to the Illinois Department of Revenue. A lower assessment results in a lower tax bill.

Tax bills may still increase if tax rates go up or if improvements are made that increase the value of the property. But for many, the senior freeze exemption prevents tax increases due to inflation. Senior citizens seeking the freeze benefit must apply for it every year. Illinois law allows us to refund money for four years’ worth of missed exemptions, which Warner learned when he called into a televised ABC7 phone bank hosted by my office and reporter Samantha Chatman.

You can conduct your own search at Click on a purple box that says, “Your Property Tax Overview,” type in your address and a picture of your home should appear. Scroll down to learn if there are any overpayments on your property or whether you have received exemptions for recent tax years. If you are missing an exemption or eligible for a refund, you can apply online. Property owners may be entitled to a share of $84 million in overpayments going back 20 years and up to $34 million for missed exemptions for the past four tax years. In Warner’s case, about half his $13,474 refund was for missed senior citizen exemptions and half was for missed senior freeze exemptions for tax years 2018 through 2021.

Warner told me he was going to use his refund to replace a fence that secures his home’s corner lot. Part of the fence was replaced after it was damaged during a storm and he wants to finish the rest with treated wood that will be more resistant to insects. “They’re going to come back and estimate another part of the fence so it will match all the way around,” he told me. “So that’s what I’m doing with it.”

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