As a Chicago-area Mortgage Lender, I’ve always been asked a lot of questions regarding Taxes and Property Assessments. Property Taxes, and subsequently monthly tax escrow contributions, play a very important role in loan approvals/denials.
But throughout the recent housing downturn, the topic of property taxes and assessments has cropped-up more often and has become far more important to homeowners …
As of this writing (Sept. 2014), property Assessments have been completed in much of the Chicagoland area and triggered many Assessment Notices. As a result of those Assessment Notices, many of my Chicago-area existing clients have reached out to me with property tax and tax escrow payment questions.
During those times when a Property Assessment has been lowered, clients are typically expecting the following to occur:
- Their taxes will decrease as a result of their lower Property Assessment
- Their monthly Tax Escrow Payment will be lowered
- They will receive a Tax Escrow Refund from the institution holding their Tax Escrow
Although each of these actions is a possibility, unfortunately none of them is automatic or can be taken for granted. Lower Property Assessments do NOT always equate to lower taxes or lowered Tax Escrow payments.
Why? The Property Assessment is only one portion of an equation used for determining property taxes. Often it is the “equalization” factor utilized to calculate your property taxes that determines whether your taxes rise or fall.
Every level of government (State, County, Township) can apply an “equalization” to the properties located within its boundaries. The “equalization” factor can change as governmental bodies yearly needs, services, and budgets change.
These “equalizations” can add up and keep property taxes from lowering. (In Illinois, it’s a statutory requirement that the “equalization” process bring the 3-year average of the median assessment levels in a township to 33.33% of Market Value.) Remember, tax bills are calculated by taking the Equalized Assessed Value (EAV) times the Tax Rate, which also is a moving factor every tax season, based on the needs of the taxing districts within your locality.
So, what is an “equalization” factor?
It’s defined as: “A uniform percentage increase or decrease to assessed values of various areas or classes of property in order to bring assessment levels, on average, to the same percentage of market value.”
By law, Mortgage Lenders must figure Tax Escrows on the LAST AVAILABLE TAX BILL. Most times, the tax bill they must defer to does NOT yet reflect the new Property Assessment received.
In those cases, property owners must wait until the next year’s tax bill is released to have the Lender reevaluate their Tax Escrow needs and make any possible Tax Escrow refund.
If you’re considering protesting your taxes you must keep in mind that you are NOT protesting the tax bill itself. It is the Property Assessment that is protested. Once you’ve received your actual tax bill, it’s already too late to protest your Assessment for that levied year.
However, errors of fact can be corrected after you’ve received a tax bill. Examples: Missing exemptions, incorrect square footage, miscalculation of tax rate, etc.
For the official protest dates in your specific locale, please visit your county’s Assessor website … or contact your local Township Assessor.