Frequently Asked Questions
Glossary of tax terms
Click here for terms you need to know to help understand your taxes.
When are taxes due?
Property taxes are due in two installments every year - an estimated installment due March 1 and a final installment due in the fall. Current taxes are paid to the Cook County Treasurer's office, which mails the tax bills to the last "Taxpayer of Record" on file with the Treasurer's office. To make sure you or your representative is listed as the current Taxpayer of Record, visit the Cook County Treasurer's website. Under Illinois law, your taxes are due and must be paid on time, whether or not you receive a tax bill.
How do I know if my taxes have been sold?
Most taxpayers receive a notice before the annual tax sale begins. The letter is sent by the Cook County Treasurer's office to inform taxpayers that balances still due will be offered for sale. Once taxes are sold, a notice prepared by the tax buyer, called a "Take Notice," is mailed by the Clerk's office. This notice is prepared and mailed within the first five months after the date of sale. The notice before the sale and the Take Notice are sent by certified mail to the last Taxpayer of Record on file with the Treasurer's office.
It is very important that the Treasurer's office have the correct information for your PIN, even if your mortgage company is responsible for paying your taxes. You can check the mailing address for the current year by logging on to the Treasurer's website.
Also, a notice on your current tax bill may provide an indication that your taxes have been sold, or that you have other taxes that are due and that may have been sold or may be available for sale at any time. Your tax bill will show annual sales only for two years after the sale.
If you know or suspect that you have delinquent taxes or that your taxes have been sold, please call the Clerk's office at (312) 603-5645 to verify the status.
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What should I do if my taxes have been sold?
If your taxes have been sold, you should immediately obtain an Estimate of the Cost of Redemption. This is a calculation of the amount you need to pay to redeem the sale and remove the threat of loss of the property. Once you obtain the estimate, verify that it is for the correct PIN. You are advised to redeem the taxes immediately, as penalties and fees can increase and can multiply over time. These taxes and any fees and penalties must be paid in full; there are no payment plans applicable to redemption payments.
What should I do if I believe my taxes have been sold in error, or if I have paid my taxes and they have not been credited to my property?
You should immediately contact the Cook County Treasurer's office with any documentation you have to support your claim. You should always keep a copy of the check or money order you used to pay your taxes, as well as any receipts received that will allow you to prove that you paid the full amount on time. This will help with any dispute you have over your property tax payments. Please visit the website of the Treasurer's office or call (312) 443-5100 to review the "Sale in Error" process.
What is a PIN?
A PIN, or property index number (also called a permanent real estate index number), is a unique 14-digit number that represents a parcel of land for taxation purposes. The PIN is actually a numerical code for the legal description of the parcel, as that parcel has been defined for the purposes of real estate taxes. The formatted code points to the parcel's location on the county tax maps.
Most deeds reflect the PIN or PINs covered in the transfer of the property. Your tax bill will also show the PIN. If you need to locate a PIN, there's a search engine on the website for the Cook County Assessor's office that allows you to locate a PIN from an address. Check the photo of the property to verify that you are locating the correct parcel.
To learn how to use your PIN, visit our web page: "More About PINs".
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What is a legal description?
A legal description uniquely describes a parcel of land without ambiguity. The most common legal description references lots and/or blocks within an existing subdivision number. There are also descriptions by metes and bounds, which describe in prose the geometry of a parcel's perimeter.
When a parcel lies within a platted subdivision, the legal description is usually short, because the lots described are represented by specific dimensions and boundaries on the subdivision plat. A metes and bounds description can be very lengthy and may contain bearings and distances for each line, with descriptive geometry for each curve and references to adjacent land.
How do I read a legal description card?Click here
for instructions on reading a legal description.
What do I do if I didn't receive my exemptions as a homeowner?
If you have questions regarding homeowner or senior exemptions please visit the website of the Cook County Assessor's office or call (312) 443-7550.
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What do I do if I want to dispute an assessment on my property?
If you want to dispute the valuation of your property for taxation purposes, you may do so through the Cook County Assessor's office
or through the Cook County Board of Review
. Both have specific timetables each year for reviewing assessments in different sections of the county. You must contact each office to ensure you meet the filing deadlines. Call the Cook County Assessor's office at (312) 443-7550 or the Cook County Board of Review at (312) 603-5542.
I live in a condominium - Why does my PIN keep changing?
The initial PIN assigned to a condominium unit comes from an instrument known as the "Condominium Declaration" filed by the condominium developer. The condominium declaration automatically divides the land on which the condo is built, establishing a PIN for each unit listed in the percentage of ownership section of the declaration. In many cases, the original Condominium Declaration is merely the first phase in the developer's overall plan. Subsequent amendments to the declaration may add more units or land to the development. Additional property divisions are required as the percentages of ownership and/or the underlying description of the property change, requiring consequent changes in the PINs assigned to the units.
What documents can I obtain from the Map Unit?
For a fee, the Cook County Clerk's office can provide maps of Cook County, a tax map for a specific area or parcel, and copies of the official legal description of the property used for taxation purposes.
Are there any special programs for seniors who are having difficulty paying their taxes?
Yes. The Senior Citizen Real Estate Tax Deferral program is a tax-relief program that works like a loan. It allows qualified seniors to defer a maximum of $5,000 per tax year (this includes 1st and 2nd installments) on their primary home. The loan from the State of Illinois is paid when the property is sold, or upon the death of the participant. Specific qualifications must be met, including but not limited to: homeowners must be at least 65 by June 1 of the year in which applications are made; household income must be $55,000 or less. Applications are accepted by the Cook County Treasurer between Jan. 1 and March 1 every year. For more information, visit: http://www.cookcountytreasurer.com/theseniorcitizenrealestatetaxdeferralprogram.aspx
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