53,000 Cook County homeowners to receive $19.5M in property tax refunds

53,000 Cook County homeowners to receive $19.5M in property tax refunds

Millions in property tax refunds will go out to Cook County homeowners as early as Aug. 15.

Cook County is set to issue refunds to around 53,000 homeowners who may have overpaid their property taxes, according to the Cook County treasurer. The refunds are the result of a bill passed by the General Assembly in 2017 that increased property tax exemptions for homeowners and senior citizens. Homeowners are expected to receive roughly $19.5 million in refunds.

Senate Bill 473, now Public Act 100-0401, was sponsored by state Sen. Antonio Munoz, D-Chicago, and state Rep. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago. The measure increased the maximum general homestead exemption to $10,000 from $7,000 for homeowners in Cook County, while raising the county’s maximum senior citizen homestead exemption to $8,000 from $5,000. The maximum household income for qualifying senior citizen freeze exemption recipients will increase statewide in tax year 2018 to $65,000 under PA 100-0401.

Homeowners can find out whether they’ll receive a refund by visiting the Cook County treasurer’s website. Taxpayers can see their refund status by searching their address or PIN number on the “Your Property Tax Overview” page.

Homeowners who paid online or by check will receive a credit to their bank or credit card accounts by Aug. 15. Those who paid through a bank or mortgage escrow account will be mailed a refund check by Oct. 15. And remaining homeowners who paid in cash will be mailed a refund application by Aug. 15.

Unfortunately, this relief is likely to be short-lived. Property taxes in Illinois rose 52 percent between 1996 and 2016, adjusting for inflation. And most of these increases didn’t go toward essential services. Instead, a larger share can be attributed to the growth in pension costs, which are bound to increase in the coming years without reform from Springfield.

Property tax refunds may offer short-term relief to some homeowners, but they do nothing to address the structural costs that have made Illinois’ property tax burden among the highest in the nation. That can only happen by reducing the state’s pension liability. Whether in the form of legislation, a constitutional amendment or a Supreme Court decision, property tax relief means a decrease in Illinois’ pension liability.

Any reform that fails to reduce the burden of pension costs on taxpayers will hit Illinoisans via their single largest investment – their homes.

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