If you erroneously filed for a homestead exemption and you live in Cook County, you have until Dec. 31 to take advantage of an amnesty period established under a recently–passed law.
The law applies to those who have one or two improper exemptions for tax years prior to 2013. If a taxpayer pays the entire amount of back taxes due, no interest or penalties will be assessed. If you have three or more erroneous homestead exemptions you are not eligible to participate in the program.
To participate in the amnesty program, you have to pay a visit to the Cook County Assessor’s Office. Taxpayers must affirm they received an erroneous homestead exemption on an “Erroneous Exemption Form” which states which specific exemption was on the property in error, and the year in which it was received.
The Cook County Assessor’s Office will calculate the amount owed. The office locations, hours and other information on the amnesty program can be found at this link.
The Illinois Association of REALTORS® fought for several years to modify the legislation known in its final form as Senate Bill 41, to protect homeowners who made an honest mistake in claiming exemptions they didn’t qualify for.
In addition to this year’s amnesty period, there is an ongoing grace period. The Cook County Assessor will be required to include specific information on each assessment notice sent in a general assessment year so that taxpayers can check if they are following the law. Included:
- A list of each homestead exemption available along with a description of the eligibility criteria for that exemption;
- A list of each homestead exemption applied to the property in the current assessment year;
- Information regarding penalties and interest that may result if the property owner received an erroneous homestead exemption in a previous taxable year;
- And a notice of the 60-day grace period available for the property owner. If within 60 days after receiving the assessment notice the property owner notifies the Assessor that they have received an erroneous homestead exemption in a previous assessment year and if the property owner pays the back taxes due plus 10 percent there will be no assessed penalty.
The changes to the program are important because they allow a property owner to fix errors which will prevent onerous penalties and possibly tax liens.