Evanston residents 65 years or older should apply for senior citizen property tax exemptions by  Feb. 7. Renewal forms were mailed and should have been received during the week of Jan. 8.

 These forms are the first to reflect new laws that will provide more tax breaks for senior citizens this year. Local seniors should feel free to call the Property Tax Assessment Review Office at 847-448-8168 for help with the forms.

Eligibility for Senior  Citizen Exemptions

There are two senior tax exemptions:

1) The Senior Exemption, available to all seniors regardless of income, reduces property taxes by about $700. It is available for any owner-occupied residential property if the owner was born in 1952 or earlier.

2) The Senior Freeze provides seniors with additional savings if the combined income of all members of the household is less than $65,000, and if the senior has been an owner-occupant of the property since Jan. 1, 2016.

 The recently mailed senior applications are for 2017 property taxes, which are paid in the 2018 calendar year. The savings from the exemptions will appear on the 2017 second installment tax bills that will likely be mailed in late June of 2018.

Maximum Income for Senior Freeze Higher this Year

For the last nine years, seniors with annual household income of $55,000 or less qualified for the Senior Freeze.  With the maximum income rising to $65,000 this year, seniors whose income was previously too high for the Senior Freeze are advised to check to see if they now qualify. 

Other Changes in the Law

In the past, the Senior Freeze exemption provided savings for seniors if the values of their homes were rising, but did not always provide savings if home values were flat or falling. However, a change in the law insures that all seniors who qualify for the Senior Freeze will now receive some savings from the program.

In addition, there should be greater savings for properties receiving the Senior Exemption. Previously, savings were calculated by multiplying the local tax rate by $5,000. This year, savings will be determined by multiplying the tax rate by $8,000.

 Information for Seniors Who Did Not Receive a Mailing

Homeowners who were born in 1952 turned 65 last year, and thus are likely to be eligible for the senior exemptions for the first time. Taxpayers who recently turned 65 will probably not receive senior renewal forms in the mail. Those individuals are encouraged to call the Property Tax Assessment Review Office at 847-448-8168 for information about the senior exemptions. Information is also available on the Cook County Assessor’s website, cookcountyassessor.com.

Senior Citizen Real Estate Tax Deferral Program

Senior citizens 65 years of age or older who are struggling with property taxes can defer payment of their property taxes until their homes or condominiums are sold. The Senior Citizen Real Estate Tax Deferral Program allows seniors to defer as much as $5,000 of their property tax bill every year.

To qualify for the deferral program, seniors must have annual household income of less than $55,000, have equity in their homes that exceeds the sum of property taxes deferred, and have lived in their homes for at least three years. Two-flats and other properties that generate rental income are not eligible for the program. Properties held in a trust are also ineligible, although there are some exceptions to this rule. Applications must be submitted by March 1.

The tax deferral program is essentially a loan from the state that is charged simple interest of 6% per year. To assure repayment, a lien is placed on the senior’s home that will prevent it from being sold until the loan is paid. Seniors uncertain about whether to apply should consider discussing the matter with legal advisers, financial advisers, or family members.

Seniors with additional questions about the deferral can call the Property Tax Assessment Review Office at 847-448-8168. Information is also available on the Cook County Treasurer’s website, cookcountytreasurer.com.