Column: Senior citizen exemptions help give homeowners a break on big tax bills 

Senior citizens can get a break on their property tax bills, but they need to apply when seeking savings for the first time.

The popular tax break is known as the Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption. For homeowners already receiving the break, Senior Citizen Homestead Exemptions are automatically renewed for properties that were not sold to new owners in the last year.

Homeowners applying for Senior Citizen Homestead Exemptions for the first time are eligible if they are 65 years of age or older and own and occupy their property as their principal place of residence. If a married couple jointly own a home, they are eligible when the older partner is 65.

To receive the Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption, the applicant must have owned and occupied the property as of Jan. 1 and must have been 65 years of age or older during the tax year in question.

That means many homeowners who turned 65 in 2022 are now eligible for the tax break for the first time. They should apply now so the Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption savings can be reflected on their 2023 Second Installment tax bills, which are expected to be due Aug. 1. The deadline to apply for exemptions on 2023 tax bills is April 29.

To apply, visit cookcountytreasurer.com to check the exemptions you are receiving. Go to the purple box labeled Your Property Tax Overview. Use your address or 14-digit Property Index Number (PIN) to search. If results show that you are not receiving a Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption and you are entitled to one, click on the link that says, “Apply for a missing exemption.”

Typically, you can apply for refunds for missed exemptions going back four years. However, due to the pandemic, some Second Installment due dates were delayed until later in the year.

This means that at the moment you can actually redeem missed Senior Citizen Homestead Exemptions for five tax years: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019 and 2018. You should allow at least six weeks for your refund application to be processed.

Dollar amounts of refunds vary depending on tax rates and other factors. Each year that a Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption was missed could mean a refund of several hundred dollars or more.

Bernice Ward of Chicago’s Austin neighborhood was a recent guest on my “Black Houses Matter” radio show on WVON-AM 1690. Ward, 71, raised four children as a single mother and drove a CTA bus for 15 years, among other jobs.

Ward called in last September when my office held an All Houses Matter phone bank with ABC7. That’s when she learned about the Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption. We helped her apply for her refund.

“They gave me information I wasn’t aware of,” Ward said. “I was so happy.”

Ward told me she planned to invest her refund into improving her home’s curb appeal.

“I want a new security door, I want my porch painted,” she said. “I’ve been here quite a while. It’s home to me.”

News by email

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Free weekly newsletter

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Most read stories this week