Mark D. Armstrong, CIAO, Kane County Supervisor of Assessments since 2006, has nearly 30 years of experience in property valuation. Click here for more about Mark.
To Ask Mark a question, click here or mail it to:
Mark at 719 South Batavia Avenue, Geneva, Illinois 60134.
- I read that there is a special tax break for developers when they create a subdivision, and as a result some developer properties don't pay any tax at all. Is that true?
- If a hearing-disabled taxpayer has a hearing before the Board of Review, will the Board of Review provide the services of a sign-language interpreter?
- If a property has recently sold, should the assessed value of the property simply be one-third of the sale price?
- I'm filing an assessment complaint with the Board of Review, and I’ve been contacted by a "Property Tax Consultant"who wants to represent me for a fee. Can someone who is not an attorney represent me before the Board of Review?
- The Board of Review's Rules and Procedures state that appraisals submitted to the Board must be "prepared in conformance to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice as currently adopted by the Appraisal Standards Board." Do these standards mean that any appraisal report has to be completed by a state-certified real estate appraiser?
- I applied for a homestead exemption with your office, but it was denied. Is there any way I can appeal the denial?
- There is a home nearby that has a commercial business being operated out of it. The home is classified as residential and not commercial on the assessment records. Doesn't that mean the property is underassessed and the owner is not paying his fair share?
- I own a farm property with a family member; I live on one part of it and the rest of it is farmed by the other family member. Can you tell me how much of our tax bill that each of us should pay?
- Is it true that farmland assessed values are much lower than the assessed values of similar land that is not farmed?
- Is it possible for a non-farm property to be reassessed as a farm with the lower values?
- There is a commercial property near mine that is receiving a homestead exemption. Can a commercial property receive a homestead exemption?
- The Board of Review lowered my property's valuation, but I don't think they went far enough. But since you are the "Supervisor", can you take a look at my file and lower the assessment?
- My husband and I each own a home, and we do not live together. Neither of us is named on the deed of the other's home. Can be both qualify for the $6,000 General Homestead Exemption?
- I heard that in Florida, your homestead exemption is $50,000, but you only give out $6,000 exemptions. Can you raise the amount to match Florida?
- If I mail my assessment complaint to the Board of Review, does it have to arrive in your office by the filing deadline?
- If I place an assessment complaint in a U.S. mailbox but it is not retrieved and postmarked until after the filing deadline, can the Board of Review accept the complaint?
- I live in a single-family home, but I don't own it; I pay rent to a landlord. Am I eligible for a homestead exemption?
- I just reviewed my property tax bill and I see that I did not get any homestead exemptions this year; I checked prior tax bills, and I didn't get them last year. Can I recover any of the taxes that I have already paid?
- I just turned 65 and want to apply for the Senior Citizen Assessment Freeze Homestead Exemption. I see that it is limited to those with a "household income" of $55,000 or less. My granddaughter has lived with me for the past two years. She has a part-time job, but does not pay me any rent. Must I include her income on the application?
- Does a member of the Board of Review have a responsibility to advocate for the taxpayer or a taxing body?
- If I did not receive a notice of reassessment, is it possible to get an extension of the filing deadline to appeal my assessment to the Board of Review?
- Are the duties of a township assessor different in a "General Assessment Year" as compared to other years?
- Are there any specific qualifications needed in order to be a member of the Board of Review?
- How do you choose a newspaper to publish assessment changes?
- Does the Supervisor of Assessments supervise the Township Assessors?
- Are there specific legal requirements for how an assessor determines the boundaries of a neighborhood?
- Is an occupancy permit required for a newly constructed home to be added to the tax rolls?
- Are there any special procedures for assessing model homes?
|Q: I read that there is a special tax break for developers when they create a subdivision, and as a result some developer properties don’t pay any tax at all. Is that true?|
|A: Yes. In the 2012 (payable 2013) taxable year, 1,396 subdivided lots had no taxes due because of a special provision in the Illinois Property Tax Code. The provision was originally enacted in 1983, and has been expanded on two occasions. Essentially, it provides that qualifying subdivided land is to be valued according to its use as of the time of recording the subdivision:
Additionally, the Illinois Property Tax Code provides that if any Equalized Assessed Value is under $150, tax bills need not be sent for those parcels (presumably because it would cost more to collect the tax that the actual tax that would be collected). As a result, 1,396 such lots had no tax bill in 2012.
You can read more about the Developer’s Relief Preferential Assessment in Publication 134 of the Illinois Department of Revenue.
|Q: If a hearing-disabled taxpayer has a hearing before the Board of Review, will the Board of Review provide the services of a sign-language interpreter?|
|A: Yes. Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, no unit of state or local government can discriminate against a person who is deaf or hard of hearing. An accommodation will be made, at the Board's expense, to ensure that effective communication can happen.
Hearing-impaired taxpayers who need such services may contact the Board office prior to the hearing, and the Board will arrange for a qualified, state-licensed sign-language interpreter to be present at no cost to the taxpayer.
|Q: If a property has recently sold, should the assessed value of the property simply be one-third of the sale price?|
|A: Not necessarily. While recent sales are very helpful, they are not conclusive. The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that using recent sales prices to determine the fair cash value and tax assessments of only certain parcels of property, while not considering the same sales in valuing other property, violates the uniformity clause of the Illinois Constitution.
In the case the use of subject property sale prices in assessment complaints and appeals, the Illinois Supreme Court has held that "fair cash value" means "what the property would bring at a voluntary sale where the owner is ready, willing and able to sell but not compelled to do so, and the buyer is ready, willing and able to buy but not forced so to do . . ." Also, Illinois courts have consistently held that "a contemporaneous sale between parties dealing at arm's length is not only relevant to the question of fair cash market value but would be practically conclusive on the issue of whether an assessment was at full value."
However, the courts have also acknowledged that the sale price of property does not necessarily establish its value without further information on the relationship of the buyer and seller and other circumstances.
When presenting a subject property sale to the Board of Review, it is helpful to present information that:
Therefore, a recent sale price is very helpful information, but is not always the only factor that can be considered in property assessments.
|Q: I'm filing an assessment complaint with the Board of Review, and I've been contacted by a"Property Tax Consultant" who wants to represent me for a fee. Can someone who is not an attorney represent me before the Board of Review?|
|A: No; only attorneys licensed to practice law in Illinois may lawfully represent someone before the Board of Review. The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that the act of representing someone before a Board of Review constitutes the practice of law. Furthermore, persons who practice law without a license are subject to damages and penalties. Therefore, only attorneys may represent others before the Board of Review.|
|Q: The Board of Review's Rules and Procedures state that appraisals submitted to the Board must be "prepared in conformance to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice as currently adopted by the Appraisal Standards Board." Do these standards mean that any appraisal report has to be completed by a state-certified real estate appraiser?|
|A: Yes. The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) is a set of standards adopted by the appraisal profession. USPAP is updated from time to time by the Appraisal Standards Board of the Appraisal Foundation.
In Illinois, the Real Estate Appraiser Licensing Act provides a legal framework for USPAP. It requires all persons acting as appraisers to be licensed or certified by the state; it further requires all such persons to develop and report appraisals in conformance to USPAP. Therefore, the Board’s Rules are simply giving notice of what is already required by Illinois law.
|Q: I applied for a homestead exemption with your office, but it was denied. Is there any way I can appeal the denial?|
|A: Yes. The property tax code gives each county’s Board of Review the final authority to grant or deny homestead exemptions. Taxpayers wishing to appeal the denial of a homestead exemption must appeal to the Board in writing, and should include all evidence of why they believe that they qualify for the specific homestead exemption.||Q: There is a home nearby that has a commercial business being operated out of it. The home is classified as residential and not commercial on the assessment records. Doesn’t that mean the property is underassessed and the owner is not paying his fair share?|
|A: Not necessarily; but in any event, changing the classification from residential to commercial would not automatically increase the equalized assessed valuation of a property because all classes of property are valued at the same level in Kane County.
Article XI, Section 4 of the Illinois Constitution permits counties with more than 200,000 in population to "classify or continue to classify real property for purposes of taxation", and the Illinois Property Tax Code requires that the classification must be established by ordinance of the county board. To date, only Cook County has adopted such an ordinance; therefore, the applicable Constitutional provision is that "taxes upon real property shall be levied uniformly by valuation" without regard to property class.
|Q: I own a farm property with a family member; I live on one part of it and the rest of it is farmed by the other family member. Can you tell me how much of our tax bill that each of us should pay?||A: Unfortunately, no; my office cannot become involved with the enforcement of private agreements. However, you may be able to determine the amounts by the components of your property assessment that are shown on your property tax bill:
For future tax years, you can avoid having to do this calculation by having the property split into two physical segments for billing purposes. For instance, if you want to have a bill for the house and the homesite only, my office can split the parcel into two segments. At that point, you would receive one tax bill for the farm portion of the property, and one for the residential portion of the property. For more information about splitting a property into two tax parcels, please call my office at (630) 208-3818.
|Q: Is it true that farmland assessed values are much lower than the assessed values of similar land that is not farmed?|
|A: Yes. Under the state property tax code, the assessment of farmland is based on its agricultural economic value, not its fair cash value. In other words, farmland located in the Chicago metropolitan area is valued the same way that farmland in rural areas of southern Illinois is valued. Major factors in farmland valuation include soil productivity, crop prices, and farm loan interest rates.||Q: Is it possible for a non-farm property to be reassessed as a farm with the lower values?|
|A: Yes, if it has been farmed for two complete calendar years and continues to be farmed in the third year. The state Property Tax Code considers property to be a farm if one of the following uses is the principal use:
||Q: There is a commercial property near mine that is receiving a homestead exemption. Can a commercial property receive a homestead exemption?|
|A: Yes, if it is occupied by its owner as a principal dwelling place. Most properties that have been granted homestead exemptions are residential. However, there is no statutory requirement that prevents a commercial property from being occupied as a principal residence by its owner. For instance, some years ago it was not uncommon for a downtown shop owner to live in an apartment in the same building over the store. This statute recognizes that and permits the owner-occupants of such mixed-use properties that many communities still have in their downtown areas.
However, if the owner is not actually using the property as a principal dwelling, the exemption should be removed. Anyone wishing to remove an exemption should make the request in writing to Kane County Assessment Office, 719 Batavia Avenue, Geneva, Illinois 60134.
|Q: The Board of Review lowered my property's valuation, but I don't think they went far enough. But since you are the "Supervisor", can you take a look at my file and lower the assessment?|
|A: No. While I am sympathetic to your situation, I have no authority to change a decision made by the Board of Review.
The courts have ruled that the "duties of supervisor of assessment, a county officer, are fixed by statute." The Illinois Property Tax Code does not give me authority to alter a Board decision, and the Attorney General has opined that "there is no statutory provision or other basis for concluding that the supervisor of assessments may alter an assessment after the board of review has acted."
Finally, it's worth noting that the Board of Review doesn't work for me; I work for the Board. The Property Tax Code provides that "Each supervisor of assessments shall serve as clerk of the county board of review"; and lest you think I am drawing two salaries, the Code also says that I "shall not receive additional compensation for that service."
|Q: My husband and I each own a home, and we do not live together. Neither of us is named on the deed of the other's home. Can be both qualify for the $6,000 General Homestead Exemption?|
|A: Unfortunately, no. The General Homestead Exemption is provided for principal residences occupied by their owners; the current amount of the exemption is $6,000. However, the General Assembly has also required that
"Where married persons maintain and reside in separate residences qualifying as homestead property, each residence shall receive 50% of the total reduction in equalized assessed valuation provided by this Section." Therefore, regardless of whether you have any recorded interest in your husband’s property or whether your husband has any recorded interest in your property, this statute specifically limits the homestead exemption to $3,000 for each property.
|Q: I heard that in Florida, your homestead exemption is $50,000, but you only give out $6,000 exemptions. Can you raise the amount to match Florida?|
|A: I'm afraid not. Homestead Exemption amounts are set by the state legislature, not anyone at Kane County. In Illinois, the General Homestead Exemption amount is (with few exceptions) $6,000. The Florida Department of Revenue reports that their homestead exemption to be as follows:
"Every person who owns and resides on real property in Florida on January 1 and makes the property his or her permanent residence is eligible to receive a homestead exemption up to $50,000. The first $25,000 applies to all property taxes, including school district taxes. The additional exemption up to $25,000, applies to the assessed value between $50,000 and $75,000 and only to non-school taxes."
However, that "permanent residence" part is pretty important. Check out the next question.
|Q: If I mail my assessment complaint to the Board of Review, does it have to arrive in your office by the filing deadline?|
|A: No, but mailed complaints must be postmarked by the filing deadline for each specific township in order to be considered as timely filed.
Illinois has a specific" which governs this matter. This law provides that if an assessment complaint is "transmitted through the United States mail", then it "shall be deemed filed with or received by the State or political subdivision on the date shown by the post office cancellation mark stamped upon the envelope or other wrapper containing it."
|Q: If I place an assessment complaint in a U.S. mailbox but it is not retrieved and postmarked until after the filing deadline, can the Board of Review accept the complaint?|
|A: I'm afraid not. This issue has been addressed by the courts, which ruled that in the case of an envelope with "a legible cancellation mark, that mark, unless 'erroneous', would establish the date of filing."  Therefore, the complaint would be considered to have been filed after the filing deadline and would have to be denied. The courts have addressed this issue as well and have held that "The taxpayer's right to file a complaint does not continue merely because the board of review continues to sit." ||Q: I live in a single-family home, but I don't own it; I pay rent to a landlord. Am I eligible for a homestead exemption?|
|A: Yes, but only if certain conditions are met. For the purposes of the General Homestead exemption, the Illinois Property Tax Code defines "Homestead property" as "residential property that is occupied by its owner or owners as his or their principal dwelling place, or that is a leasehold interest on which a single family residence is situated, which is occupied as a residence by a person who has an ownership interest therein, legal or equitable or as a lessee, and on which the person is liable for the payment of property taxes." 
The exemption also requires occupancy as of January 1 of the year in question.
So, lessees of single-family dwellings who occupied the property as of January 1 can be eligible, provided the lessees (NOT the property owners) are the ones liable for paying the property taxes. But how can this liability be established?
The terms of the lease are a good start; the lease needs to clearly state that the lessee is going to pay the taxes. However, some leases are using boilerplate language such as this, which I found in a lease in Elgin:
"Tenant shall be liable for the payment of real estate taxes with respect to the Residence, in accordance with the terms and conditions of Section 200/15-175 of Chapter 35 Illinois Compiled Statues, as amended (35ILCS 200/15-175,(194)). Tenant shall be deemed to be satisfying Tenant's liability for such real estate taxes through the monthly rent payments as set forth above."
Despite its claims, such language is insufficient to meet the definition in the property tax code. In establishing the qualifications for this exemption, the General Assembly used the plain language cited above. If the General Assembly had intended payment of rent alone to satisfy the requirement of liability, it could have drafted the statute that way, and then every leased single-family home in Illinois would qualify for the exemption. However, by including the phrase "on which the person is liable for the payment of property taxes", the General Assembly clearly did not intend to include all leased single-family homes.
Therefore, in order to meet the requirements of the state statute, a lease must require that lessee pay the property tax bill directly; payment by the lessor is insufficient to establish liability. Additionally, the owner of record must direct that the property tax bill be mailed directly to the lessee at the lessee’s address.
If you meet these qualifications, you are eligible for the General Homestead Exemption, which will remove $6,000 of equalized assessed value from your property before taxes are calculated. You can print an application form at www.KaneCountyAssessments.org/leasehold.pdf or call (630) 208-3818 for more information.
|Q: I just reviewed my property tax bill and I see that I did not get any homestead exemptions this year; I checked prior tax bills, and I didn’t get them last year. Can I recover any of the taxes that I have already paid?|
|A: Yes, but only for the missing exemptions for the most recent tax bill, and even then, only until October 1 of the year that bill was issued. The process for correcting a tax bill is called a Certificate of Error.
Certificates of Error are authorized by two separate sections of the property tax code. The property tax code provides that they can be issued by a Chief County Assessment Officer with the concurrence of a majority of the Board of Review. The property tax code also provides that they can be issued by the Board of Review with the concurrence of the Chief County Assessment Officer. However, each section contains a specific time limit: the Certificate must be issued at any time "before judgment." 
The term judgment is a reference to the "annual application for judgment" that is in conjunction with the annual tax sale. This event takes place each October prior to the tax sale. Because of this timeline, the Kane County Board of Review has ruled that requests for Certificates of Error must be filed with the Clerk of the Board on or before October 1.
Because of these statutes, neither the Board of Review nor I possess the authority to issue a Certificate of Error that would correct a tax bill other than the current one. Furthermore, neither the Kane County Clerk nor the Kane County Treasurer has authority to issue a refund for prior years even if I did issue such a Certificate.
Therefore, any homeowner-occupants who were not granted a homestead exemption on their most recent tax bill need to file the appropriate application no later than October 1 of that year.
|Q: I just turned 65 and want to apply for the Senior Citizen Assessment Freeze Homestead Exemption. I see that it is limited to those with a "household income" of $55,000 or less. My granddaughter has lived with me for the past two years. She has a part-time job, but does not pay me any rent. Must I include her income on the application?|
|A: Yes, you must include her income in your application. This is not a Kane County Rule, but a requirement of the State; I have no authority to alter it in any way.
The General Assembly has determined that "household income" is the basis for eligibility for the exemption. While the amounts have increased over the years (the current amount is $55,000), the definition has stayed the same.
In determining "household income", the property tax code provides these definitions:
|Q: Does a member of the Board of Review have a responsibility to advocate for the taxpayer or a taxing body?|
|A: Neither; in fact, the state property tax code requires exactly the opposite.
Assessment complaints can be filed not only by taxpayers, but by "any taxing body with an interest in the assessment". When a complaint by either party is made, the property tax code requires that "On written complaint that any property is overassessed or underassessed, the board shall review the assessment, and correct it, as appears to be just".
The word "just"requires fairness to all parties, not one or the other. After all, an assessment reduction for one party typically means an increased tax bill for others in the same jurisdiction. For these reasons, a Board member's oath requires impartiality instead of advocacy.
|Q: If I did not receive a notice of reassessment, is it possible to get an extension of the filing deadline to appeal my assessment to the Board of Review?|
|A: Unfortunately, no. The Board of Review is a creature of statute, and it must follow the laws of the State of Illinois. The law does not permit an extension of the filing date, even if there is a good reason.
The property tax code permits filing an assessment complaint "on or before 30 calendar days after the date of publication of the assessment." After this date, the Board of Review is prohibited by state law from accepting complaints based on an error in valuation. Additionally, the courts have addressed this statutory deadline and specifically held that "The taxpayer's right to file a complaint does not continue merely because the board of review continues to sit."
|Q: Are the duties of a township assessor different in a "General Assessment Year" as compared to other years?|
|A: Yes. The Illinois Property Tax code divides tax years up into two types: General Assessment Years (which come every four years) and other years. The most recent General Assessment Year was in 2011; the next will be in 2015.
In a general assessment year, the assessor shall
"view and determine as near as practicable the value of each property listed for taxation as of January 1 of that year, or as provided in Section 9-180, and assess the property at 33 1/3% of its fair cash value, or in accordance with Sections 10-110 through 10-140 and 10-170 through 10-200 . . . The assessor or deputy shall set down, in the books furnished for that purpose the assessed valuation of properties in one column, the assessed value of improvements in another, and the total valuation in a separate column."
In a non-general assessment year, the assessor shall
"list and assess all property which becomes taxable and which is not upon the general assessment, and also make and return a list of all new or added buildings, structures or other improvements of any kind, the value of which had not been previously added to or included in the valuation of the property on which such improvements have been made, specifying the property on which each of the improvements has been made, the kind of improvement and the value which, in his or her opinion, has been added to the property by the improvements."
Additionally, the courts have held that "although the Revenue Act of 1939 contemplates a general assessment of real estate every four years, assessment officials have power and duty to inspect real property within their jurisdictions annually for the purpose of making certain changes and revisions."
In summary, the duties in a general assessment year require all properties to be revalued. In a non-general assessment year, the tax code requires the valuation of all properties with physical changes; additionally, and the assessor has the "power and duty" to revalue properties where economic changes have taken place.
|Q: Are there any specific qualifications needed in order to be a member of the Board of Review?|
|A: Yes. The State Property Tax Code requires that appointees must be "qualified by experience in property appraisal and property tax administration." For counties with a population of 100,000 or more persons, this experience must be proved by passing an examination administered by the Illinois Department of Revenue.||Q: How do you choose a newspaper to publish assessment changes?|
|A: In Illinois, the primary means that taxpayers are notified of assessment changes is publication in a newspaper of "general circulation", and the main requirement in choosing a newspaper is its place of publication.
For the purposes of the property tax code, the place of publication is the location where a newspaper is first made available to the general public; this location can be a newsstand, retail store, vending box, delivery point, or a mail room where the newspapers are labeled for mail delivery. A newspaper may have no more than one place of publication.
In selecting a newspaper in which to publish the assessment changes, the state property tax code has the following requirement:
"The publication . . . shall be printed in some public newspaper or newspapers published in the county. In every township or assessment district in which there is published one or more newspapers of general circulation, the list of that township shall be published in one of the newspapers."
Therefore, only newspapers published in Kane County (or in a particular township) can be considered for publications.
|Q: Does the Supervisor of Assessments supervise the Township Assessors?|
|A: No. All Township Assessors are independently elected public officials and are in charge of their own offices and staffs. They are elected for four-year terms, with the most recent election taking place in the spring of 2017.||Q: Are there specific legal requirements for how an assessor determines the boundaries of a neighborhood?|
|A: No. The State Property Tax Code does not address this issue; it is left to the broad discretion of the Township Assessor.
One good definition is "contiguous areas showing common characteristics and homogeneity of land use." Regarding the boundaries of a neighborhood, a text that I have used for years describes them in this manner:
Appraisers are also interested in another kind of boundary,the limit of value influences that affect the subject property. Often the limit of these value influences coincides with the geographic boundary of the neighborhood, but this is not always the case. If the subject property is located at the edge of a neighborhood, it may be affected by outside conditions that do not affect most other neighborhood properties. Fumes and noise from a highway, traffic from a commercial district, or an unfavorable view can negatively affect a value. If the subject property is near the border of another residential neighborhood, it may be subject to certain value influences from that neighborhood.
As you can see, the development of neighborhood boundaries for assessment purposes is a complex and subjective one; this is why the property tax code permits such broad discretion on the part of the assessor.
|Q: Is an occupancy permit required for a newly constructed home to be added to the tax rolls?|
|A: No. New structures are added to the tax rolls as soon as they are complete. The Illinois Property Tax Code provides that structures shall be valued for tax purposes as of "the date when the occupancy permit was issued or from the date the new or added improvement was inhabitable and fit for occupancy or for intended customary use." An occupancy permit is often the trigger for an assessment, but there is no legal requirement that an occupancy permit be issued prior to an improvement being added to the property tax rolls.|
|Q: Are there any special procedures for assessing model homes?|
|A: Yes. Model homes are assessed as if they still existed in the state prior to becoming model homes. The Illinois Property Tax Code states that qualifying model homes shall be assessed at "the same as the assessed value of the property prior to construction and prior to any change in the zoning classification of the property prior to construction" of the model home.
To qualify, a property:
Finally, an application for model home assessment must be made every year; application forms are available on the web at http://www.KaneCountyAssessments.org/otherforms.htm. Please note that under the law, "failure to make a timely filing in any assessment year constitutes a waiver of the right to benefit for that assessment year." Applications must be made annually, and are due by December 31 of each year.