Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas announced the mailing of 1.6 million tax bills will start Monday, and she urged taxpayers to use a new web-site system to see if they were among more than 100,000 who applied for the homeowner exemption two years ago, but not last year.
The tax bills being mailed this week are for the 2003 first installment taxes that are due March 2, 2004. Payments may be made:
- By mail by sending one check per payment coupon.
- Online by following the instructions at www.cookcountytreasurer.com
- At any of the more than 130 LaSalle Bank sites by presenting an original copy of the bill with payment. Taxpayers do not have to have LaSalle accounts to use this option.
- Expanding on a pilot program from last fall, more than three dozen area community banks will allow their customers to pay by direct debit from their bank lobbies.
As with last year's bills, taxpayers are being encouraged to use the automated phone system at 312.443.5100 or the search engine at www.cookcountytreasurer.com to see if any properties they have owned in the last five years are among the 125,000 with $135 million in overpayment and double-payment refunds available.
In addition to checking for such overpayments, Pappas said that taxpayers should check their tax bill from last fall (due Oct. 1, 2003) or a new system at www.cookcountytreasurer.com to verify that they received all exemptions they were entitled to receive. We received data this month that more than 100,000 properties that had the homeowner exemption the year before did not have it last fall, because the homeowners did not apply to the Assessor for the exemption. That exemption is worth $300 to $500, depending on local tax rates, Pappas said.
This is why at www.cookcountytreasurer.com the 'Payment Status' section for taxes due last year now also features exemption information - in case people did not keep their tax bill or never saw it because it was paid through a mortgage, Pappas said. If taxpayers see a red 'no' next to an exemption and they qualified for it, they may still apply now to the Assessor's Office for an adjustment. The Assessor issues all exemptions and adjustments, and if the Assessor grants the adjustment on a tax bill that was already paid, it results in a refund from the Treasurer's Office.
The new system also is listed in brochures that are being printed with the tax bills being mailed this week.
There are 1.6 million parcels of real estate in Cook County. The Treasurer's Office collects more than $8 billion annually in two installments for approximately 1,600 taxing agencies. These include schools, cities/villages, townships, parks, libraries and public health and safety agencies.
The first-installment bills due now are estimates equal to one-half of the prior year's total tax and do not reflect final exemptions, assessments, appeals and tax rates. The second-installment bills in the late summer reflect the final data, including exemptions.
Pappas noted that when the Assessor's Office sends exemption applications later this year, homeowners should be sure to apply for all of their exemptions to be credited in the fall.