Frequently Asked Questions

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 Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

THE ROLE AND COMPOSITION OF THE BOARD OF REVIEW

Q What is the Board of Review and how does the Board conduct its business?

A A property owner or taxpayer who is dissatisfied with the assessment of the value of his or her property may appeal that assessment to the Board of Review. In Jackson County, the Board of Review consists of three members appointed by the County Board. Members of the Board of Review serve a two-year term and can be reappointed.

The Board of Review has the authority to hear and decide appeals of property assessments based on property owners or taxpayers’ complaints of overvaluation and taxing districts’ complaints of undervaluation. The Board of Review may also revise any assessment on its own motion. However, assessments can be increased only after notice of the proposed increase is given to the property owner and the property owner has an opportunity to be heard. The Board of Review provides written notice to property owners (or their designated attorneys) of all decisions of the Board of Review.

A property owner dissatisfied with a decision the Board of Review may appeal the decision to the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board or file a complaint in the Jackson County Circuit Court.

THE APPEALS PROCESS - WHAT REASONS QUALIFY FOR AN APPEAL?

Q My neighbor obtained a certificate of error and it reduced his taxes. What is a certificate of error?

A A certificate of error is a written acknowledgement that a mistake of fact in an assessment has occurred. Examples of errors include an incorrect listing of square footage, a garage or other structure on the parcel that does not exist or other errors about the physical characteristics of the parcel. An overvaluation of the parcel is not an error in fact and must be addressed with an appeal of the assessment after the annual newspaper publication of assessment values rather than a certificate of error.

Certificates of error may also be issued for a parcel that was recently declared exempt from taxes or for property that was taxed without the benefit of an exemption the taxpayer is entitled to, such as a homestead, senior or veteran’s exemption. (Property owners who seek an exemption for their property must continue to pay property taxes until the exemption is granted.) 2

Certificates of error are issued upon the application of the property owner to the Board of Review or upon the Board’s own motion and must be endorsed by Supervisor of Assessments. Certificates of error will only be issued for the current tax bill, not for past bills, and must be issued before the annual judgment and tax sale conducted by the county Treasurer.

Q If I think my taxes are too high is this a basis for appeal?

A No, you cannot appeal your property taxes to the Board of Review because you believe your taxes are too high. The Board of Review does not have the power to set property tax rates. The taxing entities (e.g., schools, libraries, park districts) that your property sits within have the ability to set property tax rates. The Board of Review may review only the assessed valuation of the property based on the information submitted by the taxpayer. The assessed valuation of a property cannot be changed once the Board of Review completes its session for the year.

Q Can I appeal my taxes because I know someone with a much lower tax bill than mine, even though the person’s house is larger than my home?

A No, you cannot appeal for this reason alone. There are many factors involved in generating the tax bill. For example, someone who lives within a city’s limit could have a higher tax rate due to the entities being funded by taxes. A person with a larger home may have a lower tax bill because they may have exemptions that you may not be eligible for based on age, income or disability.

Q My property’s assessed value increased by 35%. Can I file an appeal solely based on the percentage of increase?

A No, you cannot file an appeal solely on the basis of a percentage increase.

Q My neighbor has a 20-acre parcel of wooded ground identical to mine that is assessed at a much lower value than my property. Is this a good basis for an equity appeal?

A Not necessarily. Your neighbor may have a forestry management plan or a farmland assessment on the property. There are several conservation plans that can be approved by the State of Illinois that can help reduce the amount of your assessment. You can check with the Supervisor of Assessment’s office or the local United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (USDAFSA) office to determine if you meet the requirements. More information on conservation plans can be obtained from 3

the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website at: http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/conservation/Pages/default.aspx.

Q Why does my home have a market value of $78,000 but an assessed value of only $26,000?

A Illinois is a fractional assessment state. You are taxed on 1/3 of the market value. The taxed value is referred to as the Equalized Assed Valuation (EAV). For example, if your property has an EAV of 26,000, the full market value would be 78,007. To arrive at the full market value divide the EAV by .3333.

CHANGES IN PROPERTY VALUES AND EXEMPTIONS

Q Will a change in the value of my property reduce my tax bill?

A Not necessarily. Your property tax bill is the product of your property’s Equalized Assessed Value times the aggregate tax rate for the taxing entities where your property is located. The Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV) is your property’s fair market value times .3333. So if your EAV went down, but your aggregate tax rate went up, it is entirely possible that your actual property tax bill stayed the same or increased. The Board of Review has no power to affect the aggregate tax rate for your property.

Q I received a reduction in the assessed value of my property this year. How long does the new assessed value last?

A In most cases it will stay until the next reassessment year for that particular township (every four years). If a change is made to the value of the property (with an exception of farmland) you will receive a change of assessment notice in the mail. That notice will give the information regarding how to appeal the change.

Q How do exemptions affect my property value?

A Exemptions do not affect the property value. If you are eligible for exemptions they are subtracted from the EAV of your property when tax bills are calculated. For example: if you have an owner occupied exemption (currently valued at $6,000) and you property has an EAV of $26,000, your tax bill will be based on $20,000.

Q I am a senior citizen receiving the assessment freeze. I know that the assessment freeze is based on income. If my adult child moves back in with me but doesn’t contribute to the household expenses, do I have to include his/her income in calculating my eligibility for the freeze? 4

A Yes, you must include the income of you, your spouse, and all other individuals that live in your household, even if you receive no income from the individual. The additional income may affect your eligibility for an assessment freeze.

Q My parents have relocated to a local nursing home facility? Are they still eligible for exemptions on their property?

A Yes, if the house remains empty and they retain their ownership interest in the home, they are eligible to continue to receive the exemptions. However, if the property is lived in by anyone else, including a family member, these exemptions will be removed.

STEPS FOR FILING AN APPEAL

Q How do I file an appeal?

A The annual assessment notice is published in the local newspaper. You have 30 days from the publication date to file an appeal. The publication date refers to the day the assessment was published in the local newspaper. Don’t miss the deadline. By statute, your appeal cannot be accepted after the deadline. The appeal will be applied to the tax year when you appeal. For example, if you appeal the 2016 tax year assessment, the Board of Review decision will affect the 2016 property taxes due in 2017.

Q Does the Board of Review grant extensions of time to file an Assessment Appeal?

A No. Each year the Supervisor of Assessments publishes all assessment changes for each of Jackson County’s sixteen townships. Taxpayers must file appeals within 30 days from the date the Supervisor of Assessments publishes the assessment changes for the township where the property is located. No extensions of time to appeal are possible. If you were grated an extension of time, then even one taxpayer could delay mailing tax bills for all. Property tax bills cannot be delayed for all taxpayers because some taxpayers failed to meet the appeals deadline.

Q If I mail my assessment appeal form to the Board of Review, does it have to arrive in the Board’s office by the filing deadline?

A No, the appeal form along with supporting documentation does not have to arrive in the Board of Review office by the filing deadline. However, appeal forms must be 5

postmarked by the filing deadline for each specified township in order to be considered as timely filed.

Q What is the difference between an appeal based on equity and an appeal based on market value?

A Determine if your appeal is to be based on equity or on market value. When you file an appeal based on equity, you are comparing assessments of comparable properties in your neighborhood. If your appeal is based on market value, you must identify recent sales data to support the fact that your property may be over-assessed. Remember, you need to use comparable properties. That means you should offer comparisons of properties of similar size, story height, quality of construction, and style. A fully completed Board of Review assessment appeal form must be filed, along with supporting evidence that may include any of the following: a certified appraisal, a completed comparable grid comparing similar properties, a closing/settlement statement from a purchase of the property within the last two years and recent photos.

Q What is market value?

A Market value is the amount at which a property would sell in a competitive and open market, presuming that: (1) both the buyer and seller are knowledgeable about the sale and are using sound judgment by allowing sufficient time for the sale and; (2) the sale is not affected by undue pressures (e.g., foreclosures, bankruptcy, etc.); (3) the property was exposed to the market (such as through a real estate broker, a "for sale" sign, an internet listing, or other comparable advertising) and/or (4) the sale is an "arms-length transaction in that buyer and seller have no special relationship.

Q If a property has recently sold, does that set the market value and can I appeal based on the purchase price?

A Not necessarily. While recent sales are very helpful, they are not conclusive. Using recent sales prices to determine the fair cash value and tax assessments of only certain parcels of property, while not considering the same sales in valuing other property, violates the uniformity clause of the Illinois Constitution. So, the Board of Review must consider sales values of other properties.

Q What constitutes an appeal based on equity?

A An equity appeal (referred to as an equity of assessment complaint in the Board Rules) alleges that the equalized assessed valuation (EAV) of your property is higher than the EAVs of substantially identical properties owned by your neighbors. The taxpayer must show the allegation by clear and convincing evidence, which is a higher burden of proof 6

than the preponderance of evidence standard required for other types of assessment appeals.

Example: You live in a ten home subdivision that was developed five years ago. Three floor plans were available and your home and three other homes in the neighborhood are based on the 1,800 square feet ranch floor plan. Your EAV is $50,000, while the other three ranch homes in the neighborhood have EAVs between $40,000 and $42,000.

This appears to be the beginning of a successful equity appeal. However, the taxpayer must provide the Board of Review the evidence necessary to come to a judgment that your home is inequitably assessed. First the assessment appeal form must be completed. Particular attention must be paid to the owner’s estimate of market value (page 1 of Form), to page 2 of the Form (Please tell us about your property), and page 3 of the Form (Property Comparison Grid). The evidence must show that the homes are substantially identical and as a result their EAVs should be substantially identical. Lot sizes, home additions, garages, decks, porches, swimming pools and patios that differ among the subject property and the comparable properties may account for the differences in EAVs.

Q What is the most frequent reason for the denial of an appeal by the Board of Review?

A The most frequent reason for denial of an appeal is that the property owner failed to meet the burden of proof. The property owner must provide the Board of Review with evidence that shows the property in question is over assessed. First the assessment appeal form must be completely filled out. The property owner must provide the owner’s estimate of the market value of the property, plus evidence to support that estimate. Initiating an assessment appeal is not something that can be done in an hour. Property owners who invest the time and effort to gather and communicate evidence concerning their assessment appeal enjoy a greater likelihood of a favorable outcome. The Jackson County website has many on-line property resources available that may help you complete the form. The Board of Review web page contains a link to a web page that shows assessments by parcel number. The Supervisor of Assessment’s web page has links to other property tax resources.

Q Do I have to have an appraisal to support my appeal?

A An appraisal by a certified appraiser (that was completed within two years of the date of the appeal) is recommended, since it presents an unbiased independent opinion of the value of the property. However, an appraisal is not required. If you do rely on an appraisal, the appraiser must be present to testify at a Board of Review hearing if requested by the taxpayer.

When preparing an appeal you should remember: 7

The best evidence to value is a recent appraisal, a recent sale of the property, or recent sales of similar properties.

Assessed values are required by law to be based upon the three prior years of actual sales transactions within the jurisdiction. For example, the 2013 assessed value was based upon sales occurring during the 2010, 2011 and 2012 calendar years.

Be sure to review your property characteristics at the assessor's office before filing an appeal.

When comparing properties in your area, use only similar properties (i.e. same design, same size, etc.).

THE HEARING PROCESS

Q What can I expect if I file an appeal with the Board of Review?

A The Board of Review reviews complaints after the filing deadline, which typically occurs in the fall of the year. The Board carefully considers the evidence submitted along with the completed appeal form. Generally the Board of Review works through all the appeals by township, so it could be some weeks before your appeal is considered. Once the Board considers your appeal, you will receive a proposed decision of the Board of Review by mail. In the great majority of cases, the proposed decision will become the final decision. The Board may agree that the evidence supports the valuation you requested. Or the Board may decide the evidence supports a valuation that is different from the one you requested, but it is one you can accept.

If the Board of Review concludes the evidence does not support the value requested and you do not accept the Board’s decision, the property owner has ten days from the date of the proposed decision to file a written request for a hearing before the Board of Review.

Q What happens at the hearing?

A The hearing is somewhat informal. At least two of the three members of the Board of Review, the Clerk to the Board of Review, and sometimes the township assessor will be present. An attorney may represent the property owner. Most property owners choose to represent themselves. The Board of Review will ask the owner to talk about the evidence submitted to prove the assessment should be changed. It may be to your benefit to submit additional evidence to support your requested valuation since the Board has already concluded the evidence submitted with your appeal did not support 8

the valuation requested. New evidence must be submitted at least five days before the date of the hearing to allow Board members time to analyze the additional evidence.

Remember, the Board of Review may only act upon the valuation of your property. If you go to the hearing and all you have to say is that your taxes are too high, the Board will tell you that they have no jurisdiction over your tax bill. They can only discuss your assessment and the market value of your property. Your tax bill is calculated by subtracting exemptions, if any, from your assessment and multiplying by the rates for the various districts that serve your property. A home very near to you could have a different set of taxing districts. The exemptions and the taxing districts add too many variables, so the hearing should focus only on your assessment.

Q When will I know the decision of the Board of Review?

A A final decision is mailed to everyone who requested a hearing before the Board of Review. A final decision is also mailed to taxpayers who agreed to the proposed decision and did not request a hearing.

Q What if I don’t agree with the final decision of the Board of Review?

A A property owner has 30 days from the date of the final decision of the Board of Review to appeal to the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB). Appeals to PTAB must use forms used by that office. These forms are available in the Supervisor of Assessments’ office, in the Board of Review office and on the Illinois Department of Revenue website found at www.state.il.us/agency/ptab.

FARM LAND APPEALS

Q Can I appeal my farmland assessment?

Farms are assessed according to the "agricultural economic value." This value is based on statewide studies of soil capability and of the net income generated from farmland in Illinois. Each soil type in the state is rated according to its capability of producing crops by the by the University of Illinois College of Agriculture. This rating is known as the "soil productivity index." A State Farmland Technical Advisory Board certifies to the Department of Revenue a five-year average net income for each of these soil ratings.

The Department of Revenue calculates soil productivity index use-value figures and certifies these values to the chief county assessment officials each year. These officials then apply the figures to the identified soil types on individual farms or parcels of farmland in order to establish an assessment.

The Board of Review does not have authority to adjust the certified farmland equalized assessed values established by the Department of Revenue.