QIf a property has recently sold, should the assessed value of the property simply be one-third of the sale price?
A:  Not necessarily.  While recent sales are very helpful, they are not conclusive.  The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that using recent sales prices to determine the fair cash value and tax assessments of only certain parcels of property, while not considering the same sales in valuing other property, violates the uniformity clause of the Illinois Constitution.[1] In the case of the use of subject property sale prices in assessment complaints and appeals, the Illinois Supreme Court has held that “fair cash value” means “what the property would bring at a voluntary sale where the owner is ready, willing and able to sell but not compelled to do so, and the buyer is ready, willing and able to buy but not forced to do so…”[2]  Also, Illinois courts have consistently held that “a contemporaneous sale between parties dealing at arm’s length is not only relevant to the question of fair cash market value but would be practically conclusive on the issue of whether an assessment was at full value.”[3] However, the courts have also acknowledged that the sale price of property does not necessarily establish its value without further information on the relationship of the buyer and seller and other circumstances.[4]  When presenting a subject property sale to the Board of Review, it is helpful to present information that shows:

  • The sale was voluntary (neither the buyer nor the seller had undue pressure to buy or sell).
  • The property was exposed to the market (such as through a real estate broker, a “for sale” sign, an internet listing, or other comparable advertising).
  • The buyer and seller were both reasonably well informed in their decision (even in bad markets, an out-of-area buyer who is not familiar with a local market can overpay).

 Finally, the state property tax code requires that “Maintenance and repairs to residential property owned and used exclusively for a residential purpose shall not increase the assessed valuation of the property.”[5]  Thus, a property with a brand new roof should not be valued at a higher amount for that condition, even though a buyer will usually pay more for a home with a new roof.  Conversely, a property with a roof nearing the end of its useful life should not be valued at a lower amount for that condition, even though a buyer will typically pay less for an older roof.  Therefore, a recent sale price is very helpful information, but is not the only factor that can be considered in property assessments.

QThere is a home nearby that has a commercial business being operated out of it.  The home is classified as residential and not commercial on the assessment records.  Doesn’t that mean the property is underassessed and the owner is not paying his fair share?
A:  Not necessarily; but in any event, changing the classification from residential to commercial would not automatically increase the equalized assessed valuation of a property because all classes of property are valued at the same level in Moultrie County.  Article XI, Section 4 of the Illinois Constitution permits counties with more than 200,000 in population to “classify or continue to classify real property for purposes of taxation,” and the Illinois Property Tax Code requires that the classification must be established by ordinance of the county board.  To date, only Cook County has adopted such an ordinance; therefore, the applicable Constitutional provision is that “taxes upon real property shall be levied uniformly by valuation” without regard to property class.

QIs it true that farmland assessed values are much lower than the assessed values of similar land that is not farmed?
A:  Yes.  Under the state property tax code, the assessment of farmland is based on its agricultural economic value, not its fair cash value.  In other words, farmland located in the Chicago metropolitan area is valued the same way that farmland in rural areas of southern Illinois is valued.  Major factors in farmland valuation include soil productivity, crop prices, and farm loan interest rates.

Q Is it possible for a non-farm property to be reassessed as a farm with the lower values?
A:  Yes, if it has been farmed for two complete calendar years and continues to be farmed in the third year.  The state Property Tax Code considers property to be a farm if one of the following uses is the principal use:

  • The growing and harvesting of crops.
  • The feeding, breeding and management of livestock.
  • Dairying or for any other agricultural or horticultural use or combination thereof; including, but not limited to, hay, grain, fruit, truck or vegetable crops, floriculture, mushroom growing, plant or tree nurseries, orchards, forestry, sod farming and greenhouses; keeping, raising and feeding of livestock or poultry, including dairying, poultry, swine, sheep, beef cattle, ponies or horses, fur farming, bees, fish and wildlife farming [6]

To clarify, in order to qualify for assessment under the farm section of the property tax code, the property must have been used as a farm for two consecutive calendar years prior to the current assessment year, plus continue to be farmed in the current assessment year.[7]  In other words, to qualify for farmland valuation in 2020, the property must have been used as a farm since January 1, 2018. Complete the farm questionnaire and return to the Assessment Office if you believe you qualify for a farm assessment.  Farmland Questionnaire

Q If I mail my assessment complaint to the Board of Review, does it have to arrive in your office by the filing deadline?
A:  No but mailed complaints must be postmarked by the filing deadline in order to be considered as timely filed.  Illinois has a specific law, which governs this matter.  This law provides that if an assessment complaint is “transmitted through the United States mail,” then it “shall be deemed filed with or received by the State or political subdivision on the date shown by the post office cancellation mark stamped upon the envelope or other wrapper containing it.”[8]

QI live in a single-family home, but I don’t own it; I pay rent to a landlord.  Am I eligible for a homestead exemption?
A:  Yes, but only if certain conditions are met.  For the purposes of the General Homestead exemption, the Illinois Property Tax Code defines “Homestead property” as “residential property that is occupied by its owner or owners as his or their principal dwelling place, or that is a leasehold interest on which a single family residence is situated, which is occupied as a residence by a person who has an ownership interest therein, legal or equitable or as a lessee, and on which the person is liable for the payment of property taxes.”[9] The exemption also requires occupancy as of January 1 of the year in question.  So, lessees of single-family dwellings who occupied the property as of January 1 can be eligible, provided the lessees (NOT the property owners) are the ones liable for paying the property taxes.  But how can this liability be established?

The terms of the lease are a good start.

  • The property must be a single-family home occupied as the primary residence by an eligible taxpayer as of January 1, of the year.
  • The eligible taxpayer must be liable for paying the real estate taxes on the property as evidenced by a written lease that was executed and effective on or before January 1, of the tax year; a copy of the lease must be submitted with the Moultrie County Leasehold application. 
  • The lease must expressly state that the lessee is liable for the payment of the property taxes by having the tax bill mailed directly to the lessee.  OR The lease must include the language from Property Tax Code 35 ILCS 200/15-175(e)(4).  A copy of this language can be obtained from the assessment office or at www.revenue.state.il.us.

If you meet these qualifications, you are eligible for the General Homestead Exemption, which will remove $6,000 of equalized assessed value from your property before taxes are calculated.  You can print an application form here or call (217)728-4951 for more information.

QI just reviewed my property tax bill and I see that I did not get any homestead exemptions this year; I checked prior tax bills, and I didn’t get them last year.  Can I recover any of the taxes that I have already paid?
A:  Yes, but only for the missing exemptions for the most recent tax bill, and even then, only until Treasurer takes judgement of the year that bill was issued.  The process for correcting a tax bill is called a Certificate of Error.  Certificates of Error are authorized by two separate sections of the property tax code.  The property tax code provides that they can be issued by a Chief County Assessment Officer with the concurrence of a majority of the Board of Review.[10]  The property tax code also provides that they can be issued by the Board of Review with the concurrence of the Chief County Assessment Officer.[11]  However, each section contains a specific time limit.  The Certificate must be issued at any time “before judgment.”[12]  The term judgment is a reference to the “annual application for judgment” that is in conjunction with the annual tax sale.[13] This event takes place prior to the tax sale.  Because of these statutes, neither the Board of Review nor Chief County Assessment Officer possess the authority to issue a Certificate of Error that would correct a tax bill other than the current one.  Furthermore, neither the Moultrie County Clerk nor the Moultrie County Treasurer has authority to issue a refund for prior years even if Chief County Assessment Officer did issue such a Certificate.  Therefore, any homeowner-occupants who were not granted a homestead exemption on their most recent tax bill need to file the appropriate application prior to Moultrie County Treasurer taking judgment for current year.

Q I just turned 65 and want to apply for the Senior Citizen Assessment Freeze Homestead Exemption.  I see that it is limited to those with a “household income” of $65,000 or less.  My granddaughter has lived with me for the past two years.  She has a part-time job but does not pay me any rent.  Must I include her income on the application?
A:  Yes, you must include her income on the application.  This is not a Moultrie County Rule, but a requirement of the State; I have no authority to alter it in any way.  The General Assembly has determined that “household income” is the basis for eligibility for the exemption.  While the amounts have increased over the years (the current amount is $65,000), the definition has stayed the same.  

In determining “household income,” the property tax code provides these definitions:

  • “Household” means the applicant, the spouse of the applicant, and all persons using the residence of the applicant as their principal place of residence.
  • “Household income” means the combined income of the members of a household for the calendar year preceding the taxable year.
  • “Residence” means the principal dwelling place and appurtenant structures used for residential purposes in this State occupied on January 1 of the taxable year by a household and so much of the surrounding land, constituting the parcel upon which the dwelling place is situated, as is used for residential purposes.[14]

Again, these definitions are state law; they are not developed by anyone in Moultrie County Government, and they are not discretionary.  Finally, remember that you must apply for the exemption with the County Assessment Office.  You can get an application by calling (217) 728-4951 or Here.  After the initial application is approved, you will be mailed a renewal form each subsequent year.

QDoes a member of the Board of Review have a responsibility to advocate for the taxpayer or a taxing body?
A:  Neither; in fact, the state property tax code requires exactly the opposite.  Assessment complaints can be filed not only by taxpayers, but by “any taxing body with an interest in the assessment.”[15]  When a complaint by either party is made, the property tax code requires that “On written complaint that any property is over-assessed or under-assessed, the board shall review the assessment, and correct it, as appears to be just.”[16]  The word “just” requires fairness to all parties, not one or the other.  After all, an assessment reduction for one party typically means an increased tax bill for others in the same jurisdiction.[17]  For these reasons, a Board member’s oath requires impartiality instead of advocacy.[18]

QIf I did not receive a notice of reassessment, is it possible to get an extension of the filing deadline to appeal my assessment to the Board of Review?
A:  Unfortunately, no.  The Board of Review is a creature of statute, and it must follow the laws of the State of Illinois.  The law does not permit an extension of the filing date, even if there is a good reason.  The property tax code permits filing an assessment complaint ”on or before 30 calendar days after the date of publication of the assessment.”[19]  After this date, the Board of Review is prohibited by state law from accepting complaints based on an error in valuation.  Additionally, the courts have addressed this statutory deadline and specifically held that “The taxpayer’s right to file a complaint does not continue merely because the Board of Review continues to sit.”[20]

QWhat exemptions do I qualify for when I turn 65?
A:  There are 2 exemptions that a person who turns 65 may qualify for:

  1.  PTAX-324 Senior Citizens Homestead Exemption (A.K.A. Elderly Exemption) – refer to Here.
  2. PTAX-340 Senior Citizens Assessment Freeze Homestead Exemption (A.K.A. Senior Freeze) – refer to Here.

Q:  Does the Senior Freeze Exemption freeze my taxes?
A:  Unfortunately, No, however the first year that you qualify for the senior freeze your assessed value (excluding farmland or farm buildings) is frozen at that amount.  Over time if assessed value increases (based on market) then you will get an exemption for the difference between the amount where the assessed value was frozen and the increased value.  If the value of your property increases due to an improvement on the property, the amount of that improvement will be added to your frozen base amount. 

QWhat are the factors that might change my tax bill?
A:  Your tax bill is determined by taking the assessed value of your property multiplied by the tax rate. 

  • The Assessed value is 33.33% of the Fair Market Value.  The Fair Market Value is determined by using 2 approaches for value:  Sales (Market) approach and Cost Approach.  Sales (Market) Approach comes from the sales of properties in Moultrie County.  Cost Approach looks at the cost to reproduce the structures minus deprecation plus land value. 
  • The tax rate is determined and set by the levying bodies in your tax code.  Levying bodies include but are not limited to:  Schools, Townships, Fire Departments, Libraries, the County & Colleges.

Q My neighbor and I have basically the same house.  Why are my taxes so much higher than theirs?
A:  To answer this question, I am assuming that the assessed value of your neighbor’s house is identical to yours, but your tax bill is higher than theirs.  This can happen because they can have more exemptions then what you have, or their tax rate may be different than yours.  If your assessed value is different than your neighbors and you believe that your houses are identical in square footage, number of bathrooms, same quality of workmanship used to construct the homes, condition of homes same based on years built, basements are finished/unfinished, etc. – Go to the Vanguard link and compare the houses – If we are assessing you with a finished basement and we are not assessing your neighbors finished basement that could be the reason – unfortunately not everyone will allow the township assessors into the homes\buildings to verify the information.

Q I want to build a new building.  How much will it increase my taxes?
A:  Here is a formula to use to determine an estimated increase on your tax bill for the new building:

  • Cost of materials + cost of labor (if you do the work yourself, what would it cost to hire labor) = Fair Market Value x .3333 = Assessed value x tax rate = estimate of tax increase.
Q: What is the difference between website subscription and non-subscription? How much does a subscription cost?
A:
  CLICK HERE for a slideshow presentation  that shows what information is available for free and what is available with a subscription. A subscription is $10.00 a month or $120.00 a year. Please contact the Assessment Office to subscribe. All property record cards (PRC) are digital in Moultrie County. The cost to email a PRC is $1.00 per card. To have a PRC printed for you, in office, is $.25 per page for each side. 1 page, doubled-sided equals $.50.

Requests for large data exports, please email Lori Barringer at lori.barringer@co.moultrie.il.us


Q:  When do I receive an Assessment Notice?

A:  An Assessment Notice is mailed to property owners who have had a change in value.  Every 4 years (a.k.a. Quad Year) all property owners receive an assessment notice.  Next Quad Year for Moultrie County is 2023.  Assessment notices will be mailed prior to December 31st of each year. Assessment Notices are NOT required to be sent to farmland owners during non-quad years.  This is one way that I can save the taxpayers money.  Assessment changes are also required by property tax code to be published in a Newspaper of general circulation in the county.  Moultrie County publishes in the News Progress.[21]

Q:
  What am I to do when I receive an Assessment Notice?
A:  You have 30 days from the day of publication to appeal the value of the property.  It is very important that you review the Assessment Notice to determine if you are being under or over assessed and take the steps to appeal before the deadline.  Once you get the tax bill it is too late to appeal the value of your property for that tax year.  Here is an example of an Assessment Notice and the sections highlighted are what you need to determine are correct:  Assessment Notice

What is or isn’t assessed in Moultrie County

Wood Decks, Concrete Patios, Brick Patios that are over 150 sq. ft. –  ARE ASSESSED
Driveways are not assessed.

Carports

  • If it has a concrete foundation no matter how attached - IT WILL BE ASSESSED
  • If no concrete foundation and 3 sides or more – IT WILL BE ASSESSED
  • If it is being used for animals (Cows, horses, goats, etc) – IT WILL BE ASSESSED as a lean to.
  • If no concrete foundation and only 2 sides of metal – Don’t Assess
  • If poles in concrete and the carport is metal and the bars are attached to the poles with screws, nails, etc – Don’t assess

 Swimming Pools

  • In-ground pools are assessed
  • Decks around an ABOVE GROUND POOL if over 150 sq. ft. will be assessed.  The Above ground pool itself is NOT assessed.

 Outbuildings (Section 1-130 of the Property Tax Code (35 ILCS 200/1-130)).

  • Sheds that are 151 sq. ft. or more will BE ASSESSED.
  • Sheds that are 150 sq. ft. or less will BE ASSESSED if they have one of the following criteria:
    • Concrete foundation
    • Electricity
    • Plumbing – ½ bath or full bathroom, sink
  • There will be NO extra assessment for outbuildings that have gravel floor or hydrants in them.
  • Concrete floor and bathrooms will be assessed in outbuildings.
  • Storage containers will NOT be assessed unless they meet one of the following criteria:
    • They are being used as a house. Therefore, they have electricity & plumbing in them.
    • Illinois property tax code changes and requires them to be assessed
    • CHECK local Planning & Zoning for City/County ordinances regarding these types of structures being on your property.

[1] Walsh v. Property Tax Appeal Board, 181 Ill.2d 228, 235, 692 N.E. 2d 260, 263 (1998)
[2] Springfield Marine Bank v. Property Tax Appeal Board, 44 Ill.2d. 428, (1970)
[3] People ex rel. Korzen v. Belt Railway Co. of Chicago, 37 Ill.2d 158 (1967)
[4] Ellsworth Grain Co. v. Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board, 172 Ill.App.3d 552, 526 N.E.2d 885 (4th Dist. 1988).
[5] 35 ILCS 200/10-20
[6] 35 ILCS 200/1-60
[7] 35 ILCS 200/10-110
[8] 5 ILCS 70/1.25-1
[9] 35 ILCS 200/15-175
[10] 35 ILCS 200/14-20
[11] 35 ILCS 200/16-75
[12] 35 ILCS 200/14-20, 35 ILCS 200/16-75
[13] 35 ILCS 200/21-110, et seq.
[14] 35 ILCS 200/15-172(b)
[15] 35 ILCS 200/16-25
[16] 35 ILCS 200/16-55
[17] 35 ILCS 200/18-185, et seq.
[18] 35 ILCS 200/16-55
[19] 35 ILCS 200/16-55
[20] Andrews v. Foxworthy, 43 Ill. App. 3d 438, 442 (4th Dist. 1976).
[21] 35 ILCS 200/12-5, 12-10, 12-30