Ilyce appeared on WGN’s Steve Cochran Show in Chicago recently, and was inundated by listeners who wanted to know how to appeal their property taxes. Here are three steps you shouldn’t miss if you want to successfully appeal your property taxes.

Q: I heard Ilyce on the radio recently talking about how to lower your property taxes. I couldn’t find the information on Can you give me a quick update on how to go about lowering your property taxes?

Q: On today’s radio show you talked about the Cook County property tax appeal process. My property taxes seem to go up significantly every year. Can you help me lower my property taxes?

Q: I heard you talking about ways to appeal your property taxes and that you have gotten adjustments to your property tax bill before. I have searched your website but did not find a link on how to go about this. Can you please give me the information you spoke about a link to the process? Thank you.

A: Want to lower your property taxes? Who doesn’t? It seems as though real estate property taxes rise each year, whether or not the value of the underlying property went up.

The truth is everyone feels as though their property taxes are too high, even if they are living in a low property tax state. The good news is you can usually fight your property tax assessment, but you typically have only a limited window of time in which to appeal your assessment and in some communities it takes some time for your appeal to be heard – and you’ll have to keep paying the full amount you’re assessed while the appeal is ongoing, and then get a refund on the other side.

There are three easy steps you should take to make sure you’re paying the least amount (legally) for your property taxes.

Step 1: Make sure you’re taking all of the exemptions to which you’re entitled.

This isn’t an official part of the appeal, but if you aren’t taking the real estate exemptions to which you’re entitled, you will wind up paying more in real estate property taxes than you should.

Many areas allow you to take a tax benefit for owning a home and having it as your primary residence. In some locations it may be called a homeownership exemption or homestead exemption. And in some areas, seniors get additional tax breaks. You need to know what tax breaks are offered in your area and make sure that you take them.

If you miss taking the exemptions to which you’re entitled, and suddenly figured out you could be saving big bucks, you may be able to go back retroactively for a short period of time (a few years) to try and claim the exemption. In some counties, you won’t be able to claim exemptions for past years and will only be able to claim it for the current year.

Step 2: Understand when your assessment or property value changes and when you need to make your appeal.

These dates and time periods fluctuate all over the country. In Cook County, which is one of the most populous counties in the country, tax assessment notices are sent on a rolling basis. Every third year (called a triennial reassessment), your city or neighborhood will be reassessed. You’ll then have roughly 6 to 7 weeks between the time the notices are mailed and when your assessment is due to file your appeal.

Other states and counties reassess property at different times and have different appeal processes. In the state of Georgia, for example, there is a uniform property tax appeal assessment form you must file within 45 days of receiving your assessment. In Travis County, Texas, notices of appraised value are typically mailed in April, and you then have 30 days to file your appeal.

Most county assessor’s websites have this information online. If not, you can call your county assessor’s office to get the specific dates for your home’s reassessment and appeal deadlines. And, you need to remember that the terminology changes from state to state. We talk about the assessment of a property, but in some states they may use different terms. If you check the website for your local taxing body, you might obtain more information about your taxes online. Or, you might have to call the taxing body or go into their office and get more information.

Step 3: Make sure the homes you compare your property to are in the same tax classification.

When the pros appeal a property tax assessment, they know they have to find comparable properties in the same tax classification. If you compare your home to properties in other tax classifications, your appeal likely won’t work.

Your county assessor’s office should be able to provide your home’s tax classification, as well as others. You should find homes that are about the same age, size and with the same amenities that are paying less in taxes than you are when creating your appeal package.

For more information about appealing your property taxes, please see the following stories:

Three Steps To Reduce Your Property Taxes

Four Steps To Fighting Your Property Tax Appeal

Is It Worth It To Appeal Your Property Taxes?