Illinois Real Estate Law Blog

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Real Estate Taxes -- How a Certificate of Error Can Help You

So you own real estate in Cook County, and you missed the deadline for filing an appeal on your real estate taxes with the Assessor's office.  You thought you didn't have to worry, because you could always file with the Board of Review.  Oops -- you missed that too.  Or maybe you filed your appeal on time, and it was based on a clear factual error, and for some reason your appeal was denied anyway.  What could you do?  You didn't want to take a chance that your taxes would be sold by the county, so you even went ahead and paid the tax bill.

Not to worry -- you still may be able to get your money back, but now you will have to file a Certificate of Error.  This is a mechanism available to Cook County property owners whereby a property owner can ask Cook County to correct an incorrect tax bill retroactively, and receive a refund if the bill is already paid.  However, typically the assessor actually has to have made a mistake in order for a property owner to receive a Certificate of Error.  Typos, mistakes in the calculation of a property's value, or assessing improvements that don't exist (i.e. you own vacant land but they assessed you for a house), are all examples of errors that may qualify for a Certificate of Error.

If you are in a situation where you feel you could benefit from a Certificate of Error, do not hesitate.  You could very well get your money back!

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are you able to file a certificate of error for overevaluation. I've had my property listed at $339K, and it is still not selling. But, the assessed value is $450K. Thanks for your help.

Naheed Amdani said...

Yes, a certificate of error can be submitted for overvaluation, but the criteria for overvaluation is more than just the listing price of the property!

Anonymous said...

I have filed a Certificate of Error when I noticed the comps the assessor had listed were 500 sq ft larger than mine. It turns out that I will receive refunds for 3 years of over payment. My home is new and I lived here 9 years and have no idea how my home was listed incorrectly but they will only go back 3 years, the other 6 years are a total loss. Do I have anyway to way of recouping that loss?

Naheed Amdani said...

Unfortunately, the assessor only processes certificates of error for the current year plus the last three years.

Anonymous said...

I have a commercil property in cook county with two pin#s, the banks 2003 appraisal for both properties is 140,000 the assesed value on the two tax bills (2011)adds up to 75,000, wich is 25% of 300,000. Is it possible that I am being assesed the full value of the property for each pin#. and if so can I get some kind of refund?

Naheed Amdani said...

It is certainly possible that you are being assessed incorrectly, but without an evaluation of your property, it is impossible to know if you are eligible for a refund.

DAVID HOOVER said...

Who does the evaluation?????

Anonymous said...

I found this on the Assessor's website.

The Assessor's Office has completed processing the C of E. Please contact the Cook County Treasurer or the Cook County Clerk to determine whether you are entitled to a refund or if a balance is due.

When I go to either of those, they tell me to go to back the assessor's. I am getting the run around. Where can I find my money?

Naheed Amdani said...

Hi David,

I'm not sure what you mean. But if you mean who evaluates your certificate of error request, then the answer is that the county assessor's office evaluates it (at least in Cook County).

Naheed Amdani said...

In response to the last Anonymous post, the Treasurer and the Clerk do in fact process the payments on the Certificates of Error. But it usually takes a long time to get a refund because they have a pretty big backlog. You may have to call periodically. I've seen them take more than a year in the past.

Neil Holdway said...

Hi, Naheed. A question about a certificate of error that I must file after receiving a homeowners exemption late: The C/E form says I need, in addition to my current driver's license, either a driver's license issued before the date the exemption would apply to (say, Jan. 1, 2011), or a phone bill or letter showing installation of a phone line before that date, or a voting record. Or I can do an affidavit from someone not me saying I lived there at that time. A phone bill would be the easiest thing, but I didn't have a land line at that time. Does the assessor's office except nothing else, like a cable installation receipt or the like? Or how does one obtain a voting record?

Anonymous said...

I bought a house in 2012 and the seller has paid all the 2011 taxes due. I noticed no homeowner exemption was applied for 2011 because the seller never sent in the application but they did fill it out and I got it during the closing. If I take in the application and my settlement statement I can get the exemption applied in a certificate of error I was told by the Assessor. My question is who gets the refunded money, me the current owner or the person who paid the 2011 taxes (seller)???

Naheed Amdani said...

Hi Neil,

The voting record they are referring to is usually your voter's registration card. I'm not sure if they would accept any other utility bill besides your phone bill, but the easiest thing to do is to call the assessor's office or visit them and ask. If you do visit them, take all of your utility bills and whatever documentation you have showing your address with you. Good luck!

Naheed Amdani said...

In response to the person asking about the refund for the 2011 homeowner's exemption, typically the person entitled to the refund is the person who owned the property at the time the exemption is applicable for (i.e typically the person who paid the tax bill). However, since the homeowner's exemption application was provided to you at the closing of your home earlier this year, it is possible that your attorney and the seller's attorney reached an agreement on how to handle any refund. I suggest you get in touch with the attorney that handled your closing and check with him or her.

Anonymous said...

I went to the accessors office, did certificate of error recommended tax bill and was told i would receive my refund for the last four years because I'm a senior and my taxes was adjusted. This was done in November 2012 and I still haven' t received my refund. What should i do next?

Naheed Amdani said...

It is not uncommom for certificate of error refunds to take a long -- sometimes very long -- time. Just follow up with the assessor's office and see if the refund check has been issued yet. Chances are it has not even been issued if you only applied a few months ago. If it has been issued, then find out where it was mailed to and if it's been deposited.

Anonymous said...

I also have filed for a certificate of error and refund for the past 2 years. Even though my square footage has been corrected moving forward I am still waiting for my refund and I filed may 18th 2012. How long can it take? and why don't they enter the date of receipt of the request on our property PIN number records?

Naheed Amdani said...

As to why they don't enter a date of receipt on your PIN records, that's an administrative matter on the county's end, and I don't know. But certificates of error do often take a long time. I suggest you call or visit the county assessor's office and see if they can give you more information on your particular file.

Fouad Mazro said...

My property was valuated at more than $400K last year and at $300 this year, Can I fil a certificate of error for last year

Darius Florczyk said...

My Assessed Value for 2010 has been $39,663, for 2011 $46,969, for 2012 $46,969 and now for 2013 my appeal lowered it to $43,731. Can a Certificate of Error be filed for overvaluation of 2011 and 2012? It appears that the property was overvalued.

Thank you for your help

Naheed Amdani said...

Hi Darius, You can certainly try, but on residential properties, it's hard to get a Certificate of Error for overvaluation approved on prior years.

Naheed Amdani said...

Fouad, you have a better shot at getting a certificate of error approved for overvaluation if the property in question is commercial property.

Bob L. said...

If you do receive a refund, will you then have to pay federal income tax on the amount received given that you have already deducted the property taxes paid on prior year returns? Does this create a complicated tax filing issue?

Naheed Amdani said...

Hi Bob, Interesting question, but you will have to ask an accountant!

RS Bauer said...

This may be a new one for the record, but I filed a tax protest with recent sale data as evidence, along with copies of all data that the County Assessor suggested in response to an earlier email from me requesting what would be needed. My daughter (a 37 yr. old adult, not a child) dropped the copies off six days before the deadline. I then followed up with another email to the assessor thanking him for his assistance, stating that the copies had been dropped off and to let me know if all was not complete. With no response, I naturally assumed there were no problems and assumed no news was good news until the bill was just received with no changes. When I called I was told they never received the complaint and even offered to have my daughter come down to point out which clerk she handed the forms to. Was told there is no recourse now but to pay under protest and take it to court! I am livid at being called a liar in so many words when I did everything by the book. He did find my follow up email but had no explanation for his non-response. Help!

Naheed Amdani said...

Hi Mr. Bauer, What a mess! You could also try to file an appeal with the board of review when it opens in your area, or you could try filing a certificate of error later.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know about LaSalle County? I feel stupid in a way but I just found after 8 years that I should have been getting the owner occupied exemption of $6,000. The house previously was a rental and then we purchased in 2005 and obviously it was never switched over as owner occupied. I contacted Assessors office and they told me they can't go back but could issue certificate of error for 2013 taxes payable 2014. What exactly is the certificate of error? Can I go after them for overpayment?

Thanks!
Steve

Naheed Amdani said...

A certificate of error is a way to fix incorrect tax bills that are already paid or billed. You will have to call the LaSalle County Assessor and find out how many years you can go back and apply for a certificate of error. In Cook County, you can apply for up to three years.

Dave said...

This site has been a tremendous help! I started the process in early June by mailing in a COE for 2011,2012,2013 and they go thru an 8 step process with the Assessor's office. (They say for prior years it can take 90 days to release the refund check) Then it looks like it gets released to Circuit Clerk / Treasurer to send the refund check. All of mine have been approved and I spoke to a rep who said my checks should be issued within the next week or so. Fingers crossed! The process seems to have improved quite a bit because I notice that the gov web pages do update once a week or as soon as new info comes out. Good luck to all!