As a partner in Lake County’s largest tax appeal firm, Lake County Appeal, LLC, I am often asked if it really makes sense to appeal one’s property tax assessment.
The thought process for some taxpayers is to pay their fair share of taxes and move on with life. Some taxpayers didn't even know they could appeal!
The simple answer to that question is that due to the current economic environment in which we find ourselves, almost every property owner in Lake County should appeal their property tax assessment. The reasons for my answer
are many but the most compelling are:
1) Lake County property owners are currently burdened with the 15th
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 the message that we’re not going to pay a penny more than we have to on our tax bill.
2) Nationally, about 70% of all real estate properties are over-assessed yet only 2% 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 a large number of property owners who are not appealing their over-assessment.
3) In this economy, the appeal process is tilted in favor of the property
owner! In this declining environment the bar is set higher for the 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 your assessment. However, when arguing a case to 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 get 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
quite intimidating. The process is opaque and fraught with twists and turns that only an experienced and professional appeal firm can negotiate. A property owner can file an appeal on their own but I liken it to walking blindfolded into a sawmill. And what is your time worth? It takes quite a bit of time, energy and experience to do the in-depth research, gather all the requisite data, prepare an intelligent, cohesive and professional appeal, attend the hearings and argue before the Board of Review.
Mark A. Perlman,Partner
Lake County Appeal, LLC