There are four exemptions, three of which are actually reductions, for real estate taxes for residential real estate in Cook County. These exemptions are the general homestead exemption, the senior citizen’s homestead exemption, the homestead improvement exemption and the senior citizen’s assessment freeze exemption. In actuality, the first three mentioned exemptions are not really exemptions in the sense that you do not pay real estates. Rather, the general homestead exemption, the senior citizen’s homestead exemption and the homestead improvement exemption each provide a separate reduction in the real estate tax bill for your home, if you live in Cook County and qualify for the particular exemption. The senior citizen’s freeze exemption “freezes” the assessed value of your home. It is important to note that all of these exemptions, except the home improvement exemption, are available to you only if live in the property, as of a certain date, for which you are seeking the exemption.
The Homestead Exemption
If your primary residence is a single-family home, townhouse, condominium unit or a cooperative in a coop building, or an apartment in an apartment building with up to six units, then you can claim the general homestead exemption. The general homestead exemption is a reduction in the equalized assessed value of the property equal to the increase in the equalized assessed value above that for 1977, up to a maximum of $6,000. You can save between $250 and $2,000 per year on your real estate tax bill if you are eligible for, and claim, the general homestead exemption, depending on the amount of your real estate tax bill. Generally, the larger your real estate tax bill, the larger the savings on your real estate tax bill.
To qualify for the general homestead exemption when you apply for the first time, you must have resided in your home on January 1 of the tax year for which you are applying. The homestead exemption is particularly helpful in minimizing the increase in your real estate tax bill if you live in a neighborhood where assessments have increased significantly. You must apply every year for the general homestead exemption.
The Senior Citizen’s Homestead Exemption
In addition to the general homestead exemption, there is a senior citizen’s homestead exemption. In order to qualify for the senior citizen’s homestead exemption, you must have lived in your home as of January 1 and have been 65 years of age or older for the year for which you are applying. The senior citizen’s exemption is $4,000 and can save someone who is 65 years or older between $300 and $750 per year on their real estate tax property bill. You must apply every year for the senior citizen’s homestead exemption.
The Homestead Improvement Exemption
The Homestead Improvement Exemption is available if a residential structure has been rebuilt within two years after a catastrophic event has damaged the property. The property must be residential, but it does not have to be your home. The amount of the exemption is limited to the fair cash value added by the new improvement or rebuilding, up to a maximum amount of $75,000. The exemption is available only for four years from the date the improvement to the property or the rebuilding of is completed or occupied, or until the next following general assessment for that property, whichever is later.
The Senior Citizen’s Freeze Exemption
The final exemption is not really an exemption, but a “freeze,” of the assessed value of your home. This senior citizen’s “freeze” of the assessed value of the home is potentially the most beneficial for the homeowner. It is available only if you were born in 1950 or earlier, but also, your income is less than $55,000, subject to certain limited types of earnings that are not included within the $55,000 of income. Over time, in many areas, this exemption results in taxes changing minimally and often decreasing as nearby properties in the area continue to rise in assessed value. This is the most valuable homestead exemption. The value of this exemption increases over the years as it eliminates the impact of regular assessment increased that may occur every three years. You must apply every year for the senior citizen’s freeze exemption.
Cook County Assessor
The Cook County Assessor administers the foregoing exemptions for property in Cook County. You can obtain applications for the above exemptions and additional information at www.cookcountyassessor.com, but you must apply in person for all of the exemptions at the office of the Cook County Assessor, 118 N. Clark Street, Room 320, Chicago, Illinois 60602. Or, you can all the office of the Cook County Assessor at 312-443-7550.