Critics of Property Tax Appeals Board Say It’s Time to End the Experiment

If a property owner or developer doesn’t like their assessed value and the taxes they have to pay as a result — they can appeal to the assessor.

If they don’t like the answer, they can appeal to the Cook County Board of Appeals. 

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If they still don’t like their tax rate, they can bring their case to another body — the state Property Tax Appeal Board — which recently awarded a $1 million tax break to Trump Tower.

Barbara Flynn Currie, a former state legislator who served as Illinois House majority leader from 1997 to 2019, and Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi, recently wrote an op-ed criticizing the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board. 

Kaegi says having four avenues to appeal property tax assessments doesn’t mean more fairness and equity.

“By the time you have this fourth level of appeals, all that’s left is big property owners and they’re basically whittling down their share,” Kaegi told “Chicago Tonight.” “It pushes more of the burden onto others.”

Currie says she opposed the creation of the state board when the Illinois General Assembly passed the bill 26 years ago.

“Property tax lawyers have always wanted yet one more bite of the apple,” Currie said. “This legislation passed during the time that the Republicans controlled the House, the Senate and the governor’s office. There had been earlier attempts to do just this.”

Each time an appeal is granted, school boards and municipalities that collect property taxes have to write refund checks. According to Kaegi, each year there has been an outflow in refunds of more than $100 million from taxing bodies in Cook County. 

“In the ‘90s, people were not as attuned to issues of inequality,” Kaegi said. “What’s the harm in having another chance to appeal? People didn’t realize that if you look across the system and see what it does, it’s just the biggest and wealthiest property owners who are reducing shares at the expense of everyone else.” 

The Property Tax Appeal Board has a backlog of several years.

“Adding Cook County properties totally overwhelmed the PTAB’s system,” Currie said. “There are more individual property identification numbers in Cook country than in the rest of the state. The Idea of adding Cook to the mix meant you would have huge backlogs.”

“Illinois can end this experiment now by owning up to the mistake it made in 1995,” the two write in their op-ed. “The best time to do this was years ago. The second-best time is now.”

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