The Assessment Appeal steps
In every county (except Cook County), the township assessors set property valuations. The assessed value is just a percentage of this valuation (i.e., a percentage of the cash value for which you could sell real estate on the market). Although Cook County also has township assessors, it is the Cook County Assessor who actually determines the value of each parcel of real estate for assessment tax purposes. The steps in the appeal process are described below.
Timing is Everything
Once an assessment notice is published, a Taxpayer has very little time in which to file an appeal. According to Illinois statutes, an assessment appeal to the county Board of Review must be filed within 30 days of publication of the assessment notice. There notices are typically published on a “rolling” basis – township by township. (In Cook County, the appeal filing schedule begins with the Cook County Assessor. In some counties, all appeals must be filed by a date set by the local Board of Review.)
Remember, the first and second installment annual tax bills represent taxes from the prior year. So, by the time you receive a tax bill and would like to contest that bill, it is too late! (There are some exceptions to contesting the prior year’s assessment, such as through Certificates of Error, but they are rare.) When the annual assessment notice is published, you must act fast or you will likely lose the opportunity to contest the assessment for that year.
Patience is a Virtue
Administrative appeals to the county Boards of Review are generally resolved within about six months after the appeal is filed. (The appeal process in Cook County usually includes the Assessor, so about one year may pass from the notice of assessment until final resolution of appeals before the Board of Review.) However, due to the backlog of appeals to the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board and lawsuits in the Circuit Courts, such appeals will generally add about two years to the process.
Assessor (Step One)
When a taxpayer disputes an assessment, the first place to raise the issue is the office of the local assessor. The Cook County Assessor has a formal procedure for the filing of assessment appeals along with a library of required forms. Outside of Cook County, the process by which assessors consider objections to their assessments is an informal one. If the Assessor does not think his or her assessment is wrong, then the only recourse for the Taxpayer is a complaint to the county Board of Review.
Board of Review (Step Two)
Each county in Illinois has a Board of Review consisting of three members, plus their support staff, to hear assessment appeals. The Taxpayer and the local assessor typically take turns presenting evidence to the Board of Review which determines the “correct” assessment. (In Cook County, the Cook County Assessor does not send a representative to Board of Review hearings.)
If the Taxpayer is still not satisfied with the result, then the Taxpayer may either file an appeal to the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board or a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of that county.
Property Tax Appeal Board (Step Three)
If the Taxpayer does not win the relief he deserves after appeals to the local assessor or county Board of Review, the Taxpayer may file an appeal to the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board, commonly known as “PTAB.” Such appeals must be filed within 30 days after the Board of Review publishes its decision or the assessments for the township are certified. In fact, an appeal to the Board of Review is a prerequisite to a PTAB appeal. The procedure for appeals is set by State of Illinois statutes and rules that are promulgated by PTAB. Hearings are subject to the rules of evidence like trials, but the rules are generally relaxed in the discretion of the PTAB hearing officer.
Lawsuit in the Circuit Court (The Other Step Three)
If a Taxpayer is dissatisfied with the decision of the assessor or county Board of Review, he or she may file a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of that county seeking an assessment reduction. The complaint must be filed within 165 days of the due-date for payment of second installment taxes for the tax year at issue. The Taxpayer cannot file both a lawsuit and a PTAB appeal, but must choose one or the other option and file within the time allowed for each.