URBANA – If the arrival of property tax notices has you muttering under your breath and complaining to family and friends but paying the bill with no questions asked, there is an alternative. You can appeal your property tax bill.
Statistics show the move often pays off. The Champaign County Board of Review heard 953 complaints from county taxpayers in 2006. More than six out of every 10 – 61 percent – received some level of reduction in assessed value based on evidence that showed recent purchase prices, independent appraisal values and listing prices of property. Thirty-nine percent had no reduction in assessed valuation.
Filing a tax appeal is intimidating and confusing to many people, but it shouldn't be, said Laura Sandefur, chairwoman of the county board of review.
"We want you to feel OK about coming in here," she said.
Property tax bills are based on two factors: the tax rate for your township and the assessed valuation (estimated market value) of your property. You can't change the tax rate, but you can check to see if your assessed valuation is appropriate. If you believe it's in error, sometimes you can get the valuation lowered by visiting the township assessor, and if that doesn't work, you can file a complaint with the county board of review.
Before filing a complaint, however, taxpayers should do some basic research, and much of it is available online.
Look at your property assessment record at the county supervisor of assessments Web site, www.co.champaign.il.us/ccao/Assessors.htm. There are several ways to search, and your current assessed valuation is shown there, along with the previous five years' assessment history. Print the information about your property if you plan to make an appeal. Also look at similar properties in your neighborhood to make comparisons.
The next step is to look at your property's record cards in the township assessor's office. Champaign County township assessors and their contact information are on the site at www.co.champaign.il.us/ccao/twpassr.htm. Record cards in the township assessor's office are filed by parcel identification number (which also appears in the assessment Web pages, as well as on your assessment notice and real estate tax bill).
Use the parcel number
to find the record card for your property and similar properties in your neighborhood. The cards will show square footage, age and other identifying information on the property. This info is public record and easily available.
Sandefur suggests that taxpayers make an appointment to talk with their township assessor, and bring a copy of the assessment record and the record card. If the visit doesn't change the situation, the next step is to file a formal appeal with the county board of review, located in Brookens Administrative Center at 1776 E. Washington St. U.
Here are some reasons that would justify filing an appeal:
– The assessor's market value is higher than actual market value.
– The assessment is higher than those of similar neighboring properties.
– The assessment is based on inaccurate information.
It's a good idea to compare the facts about your home with information on the record card.
For example, if the record card has the wrong number of bathrooms or square footage, the township assessor or Board of Review can fix the errors and lower your assessed valuation.
Filing a formal appeal starts with filling out an extensive form about your property called a PTAX-230, "Non-Farm Property Assessment Complaint." A printable version is available on the county board of review's Web site (http://www.co.champaign.il.us/BOR/borforms.htm ), along with the rules and regulations for filing an appeal.
The county board of review hears appeals from July 1 through Sept. 10, and appeals must be filed within that time frame. According to Sandefur, the board tries to resolve all complaints by the end of the calendar year. A majority of the three board members must sign off on a decision for it to be binding, and final decisions are mailed to taxpayers.
Sandefur recommends people appeal to the board of review every 10 years.
"If nothing else, you should check to make sure your valuation is where it should be or at what (your house) would sell for," she said.
If the board of review's response isn't satisfactory, taxpayers have two more options: File with the Illinois Property Tax Appeals Board or file a case with the circuit court.