Property tax exemption process frustrates veterans

Friday, January 15, 2016
Tax exemption process frustrates veterans
Effective August 2015, veterans who are 70 percent to 100 percent disabled, are exempt from paying property taxes.

Some disabled veterans in Cook County are not getting a property tax exemption they are entitled to by law.

One upset veteran said Friday he's been told to pay the tax and wait for a refund.

"I was wounded and I spent close to 20 months in the hospital recovering from my wounds," said Jim Zwit, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam where he was hit by a grenade. Eight comrades died in Vietnam.

He's 90 percent disabled and, thanks to a new law passed in August, he's exempt from paying property taxes.

But when he called Cook County, Zwit said he was told "I would probably get a tax bill. It will probably be paid and then what?"

Effective August 2015, veterans who are 70 percent to 100 percent disabled, such as Zwit, are exempt from paying property taxes. Veterans with a 50 percent to 69 percent disabled can deduct $5,000 off their equalized assessed value, and veterans with 30 percent to 49 percent disability get $2,500 off.

A year ago, Zwit's bill was more than $3,000. Now, he should be exempt.

"The case I'm trying to prove is I should not get the bill. They should have been on top of this like Will County was," Zwit said.

In Will County, the County Assessor Rhonda Novak said qualified vets will get their exemptions immediately. In addition, the office held nine seminars in October to sign them up.

"Hey, we need to get out there and make sure that we're doing the best job so that these veterans who are entitled to this, who have served our country, are going to receive what they're going to receive," Novak said.

In Cook County, veterans should be prepared to pay their first installment due in March.

"If there is a balance for a veteran who believes he or she should be paying no property taxes, they should pay that bill and it will be refunded to them when the second bill is computed," said Tom Shaer, Cook County deputy assessor.

In other words, pay now in Cook County and expect a refund later.

"Maybe I'll get it back, but I'm 65. I may not be buying green bananas too much longer," Zwit said.

Zwit says, like his days on the battlefield, he'll keep fighting.

"I'm just pretty disappointed. Maybe I should move to Will County," he said.

Cook County officials said forms for veterans will be ready on Jan. 27 and due back on March 2. The county is also planning two seminars in February.