Illinois: Three Level of Property Tax Appeals
September 23, 2020
For property owners seeking to challenge their property values in the state of Illinois, there is a unique structure to the property tax appeal process that you should be familiar with—Illinois provides three levels of appeal concerning a property’s valuation for real estate tax purposes: 1) Assessor; 2) Board of Review; and 3) Property Tax Appeal Board or Circuit Court. Ryan Law Firm provides you with an examination of these three levels.
First Level: Assessor Appeals
Township or county assessors are responsible for generating the initial assessments for all properties every 4 years except in Cook County where the assessment occurs every three years. Most township assessors provide for an informal review with either the taxpayer or their representative prior to a final assessment being placed on the tax roll. Assessors are typically amenable during this settlement process to avoid appeals to the county board of review. In Cook County, appeals are more formal and failure to comply with their extensive list of rules for filing an appeal is justification to deny relief.
Second Level: Illinois Board of Review Appeals
The Board of Review (Board) is comprised of three members and Illinois law requires a property owner be represented by an attorney before the Board. Policies and procedures of the Board vary depending on county. In Cook County, the three commissioners of the Board are elected and have their own individual staff of analysts. Appeals are evenly distributed amongst each board members’ staff and in all cases the final decision needs the concurrence of at least two members of the Board.
Most oral hearings in Cook County take place before an analyst. The taxpayer argues the merits of the case and the analyst will forward his or her findings to the remaining staffs of the Board of Review. The other two commissioners’ staffs then perform second and third reviews, where they can concur with the initial decision or dispute it. In special cases, oral hearings may be conducted en banc (representatives of all three commissions at the same time).
Third Level: Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board or Circuit Court Appeals
a. Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB)
The PTAB is a quasi-judicial body that can hear appeals for over-valuation or unequal tax treatment compared to similar properties. Commercial properties are primarily limited to appeals based on over-valuation.
An appeal before the PTAB must be filed within 30 days of the Board notice. Intervenors, or local taxing districts affected by the final outcome of the appeal, are allowed 60 days from the Board notice to intervene and join the appeal. Either the county or intervenors can seek to have the PTAB increase the assessment of the property based upon their evidence.
The hearing officer is an Administrative Law Judge who has the full authority of PTAB and limited subpoena power. Upon the judge’s final decision, there is a right to appeal on limited grounds for administrative review before a circuit court or appellate court, but the standard of review is heightened creating a greater barrier to reversal.
b. Circuit Court
Most circuit court appeals are filed in Cook County as non-Cook counties typically utilize only the PTAB. Appeals filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County are referred to as “Specific Objections” and must be filed 165 days after the first penalty date of the second installment of taxes for the year in question. The complete tax bill must be paid timely by this second installment deadline or the case will be dismissed.
Beyond the differing jurisdictional requirements of PTAB and the circuit court, there are two major considerations for choosing which venue to file an appeal: the burden of proof, or the obligation to prove one’s assertion, and the risk of intervention.
At the PTAB, the burden of proof is by a lower standard of “preponderance of evidence” (more likely than not, or 51%) whereas in Circuit Court, the standard of proof rises to the level of “clear and convincing,” a much higher standard in the law. If the matter seems destined for trial and unlikely to be resolved by agreement, an appeal before the PTAB should be favored.
The other factor to consider for venue selection is the potential risk of an intervening taxing district appearing and filing an undervaluation complaint. In recent history, intervenors have been much more active at PTAB than in circuit court due to jurisdictional and notice requirements.
If you have questions regarding the Illinois property tax appeals process, please contact Ryan Law Firm’s Chicago office at 872-529-5041 or visit our website at ryanlawyers.com.