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IL Estate Planning Blog

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cook County Senior Citizen Exemption

Pass this along to any Cook County senior citizen residents you know:

Taken from Southtown Star, Tuesday, February 8, 2011:

Starting this year, Cook County senior citizens again will have to renew their property tax exemption every year, and that's likely to cause confusion, county Assessor Joe Berrios said Monday.

Berrios said he's sending out exemption applications this week to about 300,000 seniors and is trying to get the word out to homeowners 65 and older that the applications must be filled out and returned by March 3.  Berrios said he's worried the mailers might be overlooked or tossed out, mistaken for junk mail.

"They're going to receive these things in the mail, and they're going to throw them in the garbage," Berrios said.  "And then they're going to get a tax bill in November and say: 'What happened?'"

Berrios said he plans to press Springfield lawmakers to eliminate the annual application requirement, calling it "just an additional cost government doesn't need," which he pegged at $250,000.

The annual filing is a provision of a new property tax relief law that kicked in this year.  It affects more than 284,000 homeowners 65 and older and applies exclusively to Cook County.

The amount of savings the tax provides varies.  For a senior homeowner in Chicago, the exemption is worth a median savings of about $200 year, Berrios said.

Before 2008, seniors had to reapply every year.  The "senior freeze" exemption, which gives senior homeowners a break if their income is below $55,000 also requires an annual application.

ABOUT THE TAX BREAK:

To qualify for the "senior citizen exemption," you have to have been born before 1945, own your home or have a lease or contract making you responsible for the real estate taxes and the home must be your principal residence.  Cook County residents needing help with the application can call the county assessor's office at (312) 603-2961.  Chicago residents also can reach the city's tax assistance center by calling 311.  Those who just turned 65 and would like to start taking advantage of the senior exemption can download the form online at www.cookcountyassessor.com.


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