By: Ted Dabrowski, John Klingner and Isabella Raynal
Illinoisans’ pain from punishing property tax burdens has been building for decades. Homeowners have been forced to pay ever-larger property tax bills even as their earnings have stagnated.
Property taxes per household in Illinois increased by 109 percent since 2000 even though household incomes have failed to keep up, rising just 37 percent over the same time period. As a result, more of Illinoisans’ incomes have been swallowed up by property taxes every year. On average, 6.6 percent of Illinoisans’ household incomes went to property taxes in 2018, compared to just 4.3 percent in 2000. The findings are based on Illinois Department of Revenue and U.S. Census Bureau data.
Without real relief that reverses the drivers of property tax increases, Illinoisans will continue to flee from some of the highest property taxes in the nation.
The property tax calamity
According to the Tax Foundation, Illinoisans pay the country’s second-highest property taxes – double what residents in Missouri, Indiana and Kentucky pay. That ranking compares property tax bills to home market values.
But to more fully understand the pain inflicted on Illinoisans, Wirepoints compared property tax bills to household incomes. After all, those bills are paid straight from people’s earnings.
Between 2000 and 2018, Illinois’ median household incomes increased just 37 percent, far short of inflation. In contrast, household property tax bills were up 109 percent, according to Illinois Department of Revenue data.
The net result: Property tax bills per household have grown three times faster than household incomes since 2000.
That means more of Illinoisans’ hard-earned incomes are going toward property taxes and less towards groceries, college tuition, and retirement savings. In 2018, 6.6 percent of household incomes went toward property taxes, up from 4.3 percent in 2000.
That’s a 52 percent increase in the effective tax rate.
The detailed data is below:
Property tax pain, county by county
While the statewide numbers capture how big the property tax problem is, the pain is felt locally. Wirepoints calculated the impact on a county-by-county basis and few counties have been spared.
Residents of Lake County pay the highest property taxes in Illinois when measured as a percentage of household incomes. In 2000, Lake County residents paid 6.5 percent of their household incomes toward property taxes. Today, residents pay 8.9 percent. That’s a 37 percent increase. The average Lake County property tax bill is now over $7,600 per household.
Meanwhile the residents of the other collar counties and Cook pay more than 7 percent of their incomes to property taxes, with average bills ranging from $4,600 to $6,700 a year.
Overall, the collar counties pay the highest taxes as a percent of income in the state. But it’s not just the Chicago suburbs that are taking a hit, taxpayers downstate have seen their taxes rise, too.
In fact, most of the counties that have had the biggest tax growth, in percentage terms, are found downstate.
Hardin County residents, though they pay low rates, have seen them jump 84 percent since 2000. Residents in Jersey County and Calhoun County have seen their rates go up by 77 percent and 73 percent, respectively.
Cook County comes next at 71 percent, but after that it’s all deep downstate again: Pulaski (71 percent), Greene (67 percent), Pope (64 percent), Jasper (61 percent), and St. Clair County (56 percent). Warren County, in the far northwest corner of the state, was up 54%.
See how the property taxes in your county have grown:
- Appendix A – Property taxes by highest effective tax rate, 2018
- Appendix B – Property taxes by percentage growth, 2000 vs. 2018
Taxes too high
Any way you cut it, Illinoisans are being punished by property taxes.
That’s prompted some politicians like Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Senate President Don Harmon to sell their progressive tax proposal as a way to fix high property taxes.
Illinoisans already pay the nation’s highest rates when you add up all state and local taxes together. That’s according to Kiplinger, who calls Illinois the nation’s “least tax-friendly” state.
Shifting taxes around won’t help when the total tax bill is too high to begin with. What Illinoisans need are reforms that actually bring property taxes down by lowering the cost of government. Pension reform starting with a constitutional amendment to the pension protection clause, collective bargaining reforms and local government consolidation are the true ways to bring down tax bills.
Otherwise Illinoisans will face more property tax pain.
Read more about the property tax crisis in Illinois:
- It’s not just property taxes Illinoisans should be worried about. It’s home values, too.
- Springfield fiddles while Illinois cities burn
- Leaving Illinois: One woman’s search for better opportunities in Atlanta
- Chicago’s south suburbs struggle under Springfield’s continuing neglect
- Admin over kids: 7 ways Illinois’ education bureaucracy siphons money from classrooms