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New law allows earlier access to senior tax break

homestead exemption 011420A new measure sponsored by State Senator Laura Ellman (D-Naperville) that would accelerate access to a property tax break for seniors was signed into law Tuesday.

“This bill is an opportunity to test a more efficient process while still providing the same or better level of service,” Ellman said. “This particular example prioritizes the needs of seniors on fixed-incomes and ensures awareness of relief programs available to our older population. I will continue to seek more efficient processes that serve Illinoisans.”

House Bill 961 will allow seniors to benefit earlier than originally scheduled from a new law removing the need for Cook County residents aged 65 or older to reapply annually to receive the Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption, a property tax exemption designed to assist senior citizens financially.

Seniors will have to apply only once more for the Homestead Exemption in 2020 before being grandfathered in to the program. A previous law would have required them to reapply through 2021.

State Senators Bill Cunningham, Elgie R. Sims Jr. and Ann Gillespie served as chief cosponsors of the legislation.

“The application process for the Homestead Exemption can be confusing for some people and it just doesn’t make sense to require it more than once,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “Once you turn 65, you’re always eligible for the exemption. We shouldn’t be forcing people to prove that year after year.”

The measure also requires Cook County agencies to record events that would end the exemption, such as property transfers, to ensure that ineligible property owners do not take advantage of the tax break.

Currently, every county in Illinois other than Cook may allow seniors to receive the exemption without reapplying.

“I was proud to co-sponsor an initiative to help seniors avoid some of the headaches around receiving the Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption,” said Sims (D-Chicago). “There is no need to make our seniors go through the confusing application process again when they have already shown they qualify. I commend the governor for signing this commonsense legislation into law.”

House Bill 961 passed the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives without opposition in November.

“Reapplying for the homestead exemption every year can be a long, confusing process for many seniors,” said Gillespie (D-Arlington Heights). “We are cutting bureaucratic red tape so that seniors won’t be bogged down with tedious paperwork any longer.”

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