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Tax relief for all

Illinois lawmakers just extended some additional property tax relief to disabled veterans. If the governor signs the bill, some homes up to $100,000 in value will be exempt from property taxes; now the maximum is $70,000.

We don’t begrudge disabled veterans this benefit. However, such piecemeal approaches to property tax relief have costly implications for everyone else. When tax breaks are handed out, either taxing districts forgo the taxes, or other taxpayers have to make up the shortfall. Usually it’s the latter.

Other examples of exemptions: Owners who occupy their homes get a tax break. Senior citizens get an exemption and, depending on their income, the assessed value of their home can be frozen. There are exemptions for other disabled people and other veterans. In addition, tax increment financing districts hold down the overall tax base because increases in property assessments within the districts are kept separate.

Illinois has the second highest property rates in the nation when calculated as a percentage of a home’s value, according to the Urban Institute. Coincidentally, or maybe not so coincidentally, Illinois also has the second highest rate of households leaving the state. The state with the highest property taxes is New Jersey – also the state with the most households leaving.

Everyone in Illinois could use some property tax relief. Instead of providing breaks to select groups, lawmakers should be concentrating on comprehensive reforms to the overall system.