Are You Overlooking Ways to Save on Your Real Estate Taxes?

I saved my son hundreds of dollars and I feel like a hero.  In truth, it was very easy. But he thinks I’m a genius (at least for the moment).

It all started with an urgent text he sent me after receiving his first real estate tax bill since purchasing his townhouse. He didn’t understand how his real estate taxes increased so much over the previous owner. I had him read me his Property Index Number (PIN) and I looked up his unit on the assessor’s website. I quickly determined that he had not been given the Homeowner’s Exemption and I instructed him to go to his township assessor’s office and apply for the exemption.

It occurred to me that he is not alone in this situation. How often do we check that we are receiving all the exemptions we are entitled to, as well as making sure that the information concerning our home is correct?

Trigger Events

Each county has its own set of regulations. However, there are common exemptions (discounts) available. Events that should trigger a fresh review of your exemptions include:

  • Have you recently moved? Check to make sure you are receiving the Homeowner’s Exemption if the new property is your principal residence. Most counties require that you occupied your home as of January 1st of the tax year in question.
  • Has one person in your household turned 65? You may be entitled to the Senior Exemption.  Some counties, such as Cook County in Illinois, require you to reapply every year for this exemption. Lake County, Illinois, however, does not require an annual renewal.
  • Are you a returning veteran or disabled veteran? Most counties have a Disabled Veteran Exemption and some have a Returning Veterans Exemption.
  • Did you recently make home improvements? You may be eligible for a Home Improvement Exemption which will prevent your assessed valuation from increasing for a specified number of years.

Action Items

  1. Review exemptions: Visit the website for your County Assessor or County Treasurer’s office to see that you are receiving all the exemptions available to you. Don’t forget that many of these exemptions are applied every year, so the savings can really add up.
  2. Make sure your home details are reported correctly: Generally, items such as number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, basement, garage, frame, or brick construction and fireplaces will affect your assessed valuation and ultimately the amount of your tax bill.
  3. Don’t wait until you receive your next tax bill: Take a page from my son who reacted right away. If you wait until you receive your next tax bill, you may lose a year of savings. It is easy to check your status online. If you check your status now, you may have time to take action before the 2nd installment bills are prepared.

I am always happy to share my “Super Mom” moments and hope that this information will save you or a loved one significant dollars over time. As a financial planner at Strategic Wealth Partners, bringing this to your attention is just one of the many ways we like to go the extra mile for our clients.

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