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posted: 3/23/2013 5:00 AM

Change could make tax appeals worse

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Since the recession of 2008, property owners in Lake County and nationwide have seen dramatic drops in market values, and in response, tax appeals have gone steadily up.

Property owners appeal on their own, or seek assistance with attorneys and tax professionals -- including real estate brokers, appraisers and financial consultants. Now, at the behest of tax appeal lawyers, Lake County officials are considering protectionist measures to disqualify all non-attorneys from providing tax appeal representation or assistance to property owners.

They cite old case law (where consultants paraded as attorneys) as reason enough for rules changes, while ignoring relevant statutes affirming that factual market value data and appraisals is all that's required for county appeals.

Appeals at the assessor's office or county board of review are largely administrative -- requiring no legal arguments, judicial procedures, or adversarial presentations. Actual tax hearings are rarely needed in county tax appeals. The staff of these agencies are mostly non-attorneys.

If taxpayers are not satisfied with the results at these agencies, they can seek out the help of legal counsel at the circuit court or the Illinois Property Tax Appeals Board.

Unfortunately, the current effort to restrict consumer choice without providing the necessary regulation required in this industry, will neither limit appeals, nor improve service quality. It may in fact politicize the tax appeal process and decisions in Lake County, and lead to less accuracy of assessments and greater need for appeals to achieve tax equity.

Andrea A. Raila

Chicago

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