26,500 Cook County seniors didn't reapply for property tax discounts
Cook County seniors who didn't reapply for annual property tax exemptions and discounts potentially are paying an estimated $45 million more than they should.
That's according to Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, who said an estimated 26,500 homeowners who received a senior exemption last year did not have it applied to their bills this year.
Additionally, roughly 19,200 of those seniors also received a senior freeze discount last year that was not applied to their tax bills this year either.
But Pappas noted it's not too late for those homeowners to receive the benefits. Anyone who is concerned he or she didn't receive the exemption or discount should go to the treasurer's website, cookcountytreasurer.com, and click on the link labeled "Your Property Tax Overview." Once there, enter an address or property index number and check the results under "Have You Received Your Exemptions in These Tax Years?" If not, click a link labeled "Apply for a missing exemption."
"It takes a little time to apply, but the exemptions reduce your tax bill by hundreds of dollars," Pappas said.
Anyone who needs assistance with the website can visit any township assessor's office.
Property taxes are due Aug. 1, but seniors who have the benefits applied late will see those discounts on the first installment of next year's tax bill.
Last year, the county had more than 30,000 seniors who did not reapply for the benefits. The senior exemption reduces the assessed value of a home by $8,000. The average value for the exemption on a tax bill is about $600, officials in the treasurer's office said.
The senior freeze is available to homeowners 65 and older with a household income of $65,000 or less. The discount of the freeze works by locking a home's assessed value so that even if it were reassessed at a higher value, the owner wouldn't be taxed at the more expensive level.
State law currently requires seniors to reapply annually for both the senior exemption and senior freeze to cut down on fraud. However, the legislature recently passed a bill that would allow seniors who apply for the senior exemption in 2020 to keep that exemption until 2024 without reapplying, officials said.