Illinois Real Estate Taxes — How and When Are They Billed?

In the last couple of days, most Cook County property owners have received their 2008 First Installment Tax Bill. During the course of a closing transaction, I inevitably have to explain how and when real estate taxes are billed in Illinois. Here’s a primer:

Taxes in Illinois are billed and become due approximately one year after they accrue. In other words, the taxes for January 1, 2007 – June 30, 2007 became due in the first half of 2008. Likewise, taxes for July 1, 2007 – December 31, 2007 became due in the second half of 2008. Similarly, taxes for the first half of 2008 will become due in early 2009, and taxes for the second half of 2008 will become due in the second half of 2009.

Most Illinois counties, including the collar counties (Lake County, DuPage County, McHenry County, and Will County), follow a fairly straightforward system. They determine the new total tax amount due for each parcel of real estate. Then, in the early part of each year, each county sends a tax bill to each property owner for the entire previous year. Property owners are required to pay half of the bill around May (although the actual month will vary by county) and the other half around August (again, the actual month in which taxes become due may vary by county).

Cook County, on the other hand, follows a different system. Like other counties, Cook County property owners typically receive a bill in the early part of each year, albeit a bit earlier than the other counties — typically by the first week of February. This first installment tax bill is due in early March. The first installment tax bill is always exactly half of the last full-year tax bill available. For example, if you own property in Cook County and if your 2007 total taxes for that property were $5000, then your first installment bill for 2008 (which is not billed or payable until February 2009) will be $2500. If your property was unimproved or in the process of a conversion (i.e. a condominium conversion) in 2007, and if your 2007 tax bill was thus zero, your first installment tax bill for 2008 will also be zero — because half of zero, of course, is still zero.

Cook County will not send your second installment tax bill until the fall of each year. The entire increase in your property taxes will be included in the second installment tax bill. In the vast majority of circumstances, the second installment Cook County tax bill is higher than the first installment tax bill, since taxes typically go up. How much higher your second installment tax bill is depends on a number of factors, such as where your property is in the reassessment cycle, what new tax exemptions, if any, you are receiving, if a new assessed value is being assigned to your property or not, and what the new tax rate in your area is. Cook County is split up into three parts, and a portion of Cook County is reassessed each year. For some idea about when your area was or will be reassessed, please look here.

Other counties are also reassessed periodically. Lake County, for example, is reassessed every three years. If you own or are purchasing or selling property in any of the collar counties and you’re not sure when you will be reassessed, you can call your county assessor’s office and ask them. Links to the Cook County Assessor, as well as the DuPage, Lake, McHenry and Will County Assessors’ offices, are provided at the side of this page for your convenience.