As a partner in Lake County's largest tax appeal firm, I am often asked if it really makes sense to appeal one's property tax assessment. For some, the thought process seems to be to pay their fair share of taxes and move on with life.
The simple truth is that due to current economic environment in which we find ourselves, most property owners in Lake County are over-assessed and should appeal that assessment. The reasons for action are many but the most compelling are:
1) Lake County property owners are currently burdened with the 16th highest property taxes in the nation! Our property tax bills in Lake County are 413% above the national average. The situation is untenable and an appeal sends a clear message that we're not going to pay a penny more than we have to on our tax bill.
2) Nationally, about 60% of all real estate properties are over-assessed yet only about 5% of property owners ever appeal their over-assessment. Last year, about ten percent (10%) of Lake County property owners appealed their assessment. Even though we are protesting in record numbers that still leaves the vast majority of property owners who are not appealing their over-assessment.
3) In this economy, the appeal process is actually tilted in favor of the property owner! In this declining environment the bar is set higher for the township assessor than it is for the property owner when establishing the value of a property. Assessors must use the last three (3) years of sales data when calculating a properties assessment. However, when arguing a case in front of the Board of Review we only need to establish the value of the property as of January 1st of the preceding tax year. So as prices bump along the bottom, and go even lower, the process actually favors the property owner. As one of Lake County's Township Assessors stated in a recent newsletter, people who don't appeal..."will see an unfair increase in their tax bills as the tax burden is shifted from the "complainers" to the "non-complainers". The final result is an unfair shifting of the tax burden to those who do not (appeal)"
4) While it is relatively inexpensive to file an appeal, the process can be intimidating. The process is rather opaque and fraught with twists, turns and nuances that many times, only an experienced and professional appeal firm can negotiate. A property owner can file an appeal on their own but it can be like walking into a sawmill with a blindfold on. And what is your time worth? It can take quite a bit of time, energy and experience to gather all the reasearch, requisite data, prepare an intelligent, cohesive and professional appeal, attend the hearing and argue your case before the Board of Review.
Mark A. Perlman