Are You Getting All the Illinois Property Tax Breaks You Deserve?

Make sure you're not being overcharged, and are receiving all possible exemptions on your Illinois property tax.

By , Attorney · Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Illinois has the second highest property taxes in the nation. As a homeowner in the Land of Lincoln, you are undoubtedly aware of the burdens of those taxes. But what you may not realize is that there are ways to lower your property tax bills and ensure that you are not overpaying.

So how can you reduce your property tax burden? There are two primary methods. The first is available to all homeowners. The second depends on whether you meet certain qualifications under the Illinois tax code. If you do, you can seek tax relief using both methods.

Method #1: Appeal the Taxable Value of Your Home

You may know that the Illinois authorities compute your property tax by multiplying your home's taxable value by the tax rate. The taxable value is essentially the fair market value of your home, taking into account its condition, location, and size.

For example, imagine that the state tax assessor has placed a taxable value of $200,000 on the Samsons' home. If the tax rate is 1%, they will owe $2,000 in property tax.

If you can reduce the taxable value of your home, your property tax bill will be lowered. Imagine that the Samsons decide to appeal the $200,000 taxable value of their home, insisting that the value is actually lower. The appeals board reduces that value to $150,000. Now, the Samsons owe only $1,500 in property tax.

You may check the appraisal value of your home with your county clerk's office. Be sure that it properly describes your home's size, and does not overestimate its condition.

If you believe that the Illinois tax assessor has misjudged the value of your home, or if the taxable value is higher than that of similar homes, you might want to pursue an appeal.

Method #2: Obtain All Tax Breaks to Which You're Entitled

Beyond trying to lower the appraised value of your home in the eyes of the assessor, Illinois also allows for reduced property taxes if you meet certain requirements. The chief statewide programs in Illinois are summarized here. For the law itself, see Illinois's Property Tax Code at 35 ILCS Section 200.

  • Primary residence. You may qualify for a homeowner exemption if the house in question is your primary residence. Depending on local tax rates and assessment increases, as well as your own income level, this can reduce your assessed value by up to $10,000. (See 35 ILCS 200/15-175.)
  • Senior citizens. If you are 65 or older, you can have your assessed value lowered by up to $5,000 (or $8,000 in Cook County). You can also apply for an assessment freeze that limits the amount of future assessment increases. (See 35 ILCS 200/15-170, 15-172.)
  • Disabled persons. This offers an annual $2,000 reduction in assessed value to persons with a disability who are liable for property taxes on a home that's their primary residence. (See 35 ILCS 200/15-168.)
  • Home improvements. If you make home improvements that increase your home's value, up to $75,000 of that increased value will be exempt from Illinois property tax. (See 35 ILCS 200/15-180.)
  • Disabled veterans. If your home's structure has been changed to accommodate your disability, up to $100,000 of the home's value may be exempt. (See 35 ILCS 200/15-165.)There are alternative tax exemptions depending on the level of one's disability, as well. 35 ILCS 200/15-169.)
  • Returning veterans. If you are returning from an armed conflict, you're eligible for a $5,000 reduction in your home's assessed value. This is in addition to any other homestead exemption for which you qualify. (See 35 ILCS 200/15-167.)
  • Natural disasters. Have you rebuilt your home after a natural disaster damaged it? You may qualify for special property tax relief. (This provision was added to the state's tax laws in response to tornadoes that hit the Illinois counties of Tazewell, Woodford, and Peoria. Given the increase in natural disasters in the United States more broadly, this provision is likely to be useful for many homeowners.) (See 35 ILCS 200/15-180.)

Contact your local tax assessor for complete details on these and other Illinois property tax exemptions, including any required forms you need to complete and the deadline for filing those forms. Contact information for the assessor's office is available from this online list of Illinois assessors.

Depending on the complexity of your situation, you may want to seek legal help. To find an experienced real estate lawyer in Illinois, check out Nolo's Lawyer Directory.

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