Increases to the Homeowner’s, Senior’s and Senior Freeze Exemptions which will take effect for the second installment 2017 tax bill
by Steven Kandelman
The Illinois legislature signed Public Act 100-0401 into law on August 25, 2017 which will increase the value of the General Homestead Exemption, Senior Citizens Homestead Exemption and will raise the limitation for the Senior Citizens Assessment Freeze Exemption for all counties in Illinois. For all homeowners who have their principal residence in Cook County, the amount of the equalized assessed value (EAV) exemption will increase by 3,000 to 10,000 starting with the second installment of homeowner’s 2017 tax bill (due in August, 2018). The exemption amount in Cook County was 6,000 for tax years 2009-2011 and 7,000 for tax years 2012-2016. The value of the Homestead Exemption will remain at 6,000 for homeowners in all other counties in Illinois. The Senior Citizens Homestead Exemption is available to all homeowners who are at least 65 years old as of the current assessment year. P.A. 100-0401 will increase the value of the exemption starting in tax year 2017 from 5,000 for Cook County homeowners to an 8,000 exemption deduction from the EAV. For tax years 2008-2011, the exemption for Senior Citizens was 4,000 and for tax years 2013-2016 the Senior’s exemption deduction was 5,000. The value of the exemption will remain at 5,000 for all other counties of Illinois for 2017 and beyond. A homeowner who qualifies for the Senior Citizen Exemption will automatically qualify for a General Homestead Exemption. The Senior Citizens Exemption needs to be renewed every year, while the Homeowner’s Exemption renews automatically every year.
The Senior Freeze Exemption covers those senior citizens who are 65 years as of the current assessment year. The exemption amount will increase the household income limitation in Cook County to $65,000 from $55,000 for tax year 2017 and will increase to $65,000 for all of the other counties in Illinois in tax year 2018. Moreover, even if the EAV of a qualifying senior’s home does not increase from the base, eligible seniors will receive at least a minimum $2,000 exemption deduction under the Senior Freeze.
The Civic Federation has determined that in tax years 2016 (for taxes payable in 2017), Cook County taxpayers claimed $7.3 billion in General Homestead Exemptions, $2.0 billion in Senior Freeze Exemptions and nearly $1.4 billion of Senior Citizens Exemptions which removed 6.60% of gross taxable value of property in Cook County. 
This legislation which increased the exemption amounts and the household income limitation for the Senior Freeze was initiated by Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios to allow homeowners to save more money on their property taxes. Assessor Berrios added that the increase in the household income for seniors to qualify for the Senior Freeze Exemption was intended to assist seniors who “often live on fixed incomes and face financial troubles when their property taxes rise. To relieve this financial strain, I have proposed to increase the income limit for the Senior Freeze Exemption to more accurately reflect the cost of living and to also provide a minimum savings for the exemption.”  This new legislation will lessen the impact for Illinois homeowners of assessment increases, local tax rate increases and increases in the Cook County Equalization Factor.
 “New State Law Increases Cook County Property Tax Homestead Exemptions”, Civic Federation Press Release, 9/28/17.
 “Three changes to property tax exemptions approved by the Illinois legislature,” Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle, May 28, 2017.