Developing Effective Board of Review Rules

September 20, 2023

This article addresses boards of review in counties of fewer than 3,000,000 persons, with authority granted by Article 16, Division 2 of the Illinois Property Tax Code.  The Cook County Board of Review operates under authority granted by Article 16, Division 3, which considers the unique nature of that jurisdiction.  For more information on the requirements for the Cook County Board of Review, please see the Illinois Complied Statutes at www.ILGA.gov.

Board of review season is already underway in many Illinois counties, and about to begin in the rest.  In downstate counties, the boards of review must convene each year “on or before the first Monday each June” to begin their work.[i]  But before hearing complaints and revising assessments, each board of review must first develop and adopt rules and procedures for that year.  The Illinois Property Tax Code requires each board of review “shall make and publish reasonable rules” for that year’s session.[ii]  These reasonable rules are provided for two reasons:  For the guidance of persons doing business with the board of review, and for the orderly dispatch of business.[iii]

Generally, the following persons do business with county boards of review: 

  • Taxpayers, who may be filing assessment complaints or applications for exemptions (both homestead and non-homestead);
  • Taxing Bodies, who may be intervening in assessment complaints, filing undervaluation complaints, or filing applications for non-homestead exemptions;
  • Assessors, who are the respondents in assessment complaints or inviting the board of review to change an assessment on the board’s own motion;
  • Attorneys, who may be representing any of the above; and
  • Witnesses, who are called to testify before the board of review in proceedings by any of the above.

By statute, an effective rule is designed to guide any of these persons doing business with the board. 

But in addition to that, an effective rule will also provide for “the orderly dispatch of business.”  So just what is the “business” of a board of review?

The courts have ruled that a county board of review is a creature of statute, having only such powers as are expressly given it by the legislature; it will not be presumed that the board has any powers other than those delegated to it by plain and specific language.[iv]  And by statute, the “business of downstate boards of review are limited to those powers granted in sections 16-25 to 16-90 of the Property Tax Code:[v] 

  • Convene on or before the first Monday in June of the taxable year;[vi]
  • Hear and rule on assessment complaints filed by taxpayers or taxing bodies;[vii]
  • Raise or lower assessments on the Board’s own motion;[viii]
  • Value omitted property, including erroneous homestead exemptions;[ix]
  • Equalize within the county if the median level of assessments is not correct;[x]
  • Rule on applications for homestead exemptions;[xi]
  • Make recommendations to the Department of Revenue on applications for non-homestead exemption;[xii]
  • Issue Certificates of Error;[xiii]
  • Certify the assessment roll and deliver it to the County Clerk;[xiv] and
  • Adjourn on or before March 15 of the next taxable year.[xv]


Therefore, an effective rule will address one of these statutory responsibilities of the board of review.  

However, there are limitations on what rules can be made:  an effective rule must be “reasonable.”  But how is “reasonable” defined? 

Rulings in the courts can be helpful in making this determination.  For example, property owners must be given “notice and an opportunity to be heard” on the valuation of their properties as provided by statute.[xvi]  Therefore, we can presume that any rule that abridges that opportunity cannot be a “reasonable” rule.  For example, a rule limiting the types of evidence in an assessment complaint (such as requiring an appraisal report) would not be a reasonable rule, because overvaluation is not the only basis for an assessment complaint and such a rule would deny taxpayers the opportunity to be heard.[xvii] 

Therefore, when beginning the process of establishing effective rules, boards of review are wise to ask themselves the following questions:

  • When do we need to have the rules completed?  Rules will need to be complete before your county publishes and mails its assessment notices for that year; begin early so you can meet this deadline.
  • What real problem(s) are we trying to solve?  Have a clear idea of what you are seeking to accomplish by creating a rule, and don’t worry about trying to fix hypothetical situations that usually don’t happen.
  • Do we have the means and willingness to enforce any rules we make?  Don’t create a rule that you are unable or unwilling to enforce.
  • Can we learn from the experience others?  Neighboring jurisdictions may have similar problems as yours, and may have workable rules; a best practice is to review and consider their rules before establishing your own.  However, your rules need not be identical to neighboring jurisdictions.[xviii]
  • Do our proposed rules include everything we want known?  Do not use the rules to play “gotcha”; make sure everything is clearly spelled out.  The board of review’s rules must include, at a minimum:
    • An explanation of any applicable burdens of proof, to the extent there are any;
    • Any rules of evidence and timelines; and
    • Any other procedures that will allow the taxpayer to effectively present his or her case before the board.[xix]
  • Will our proposed rules withstand legal challenge?  Ultimately, only the courts can make this determination.  However, each board of review has an attorney—the state’s attorney for that county—who has a duty to represent the board in legal matters.  A best practice is to have the state’s attorney review a draft of the proposed rules prior to adoption by the board.

Finally, the last step is to “publish” the rules.  This does not mean to print them in the local newspaper (although there’s nothing that prohibits that), but to make them available to the public.  This includes placing them on the county’s web site, if one exists.[xx]

Effective board of review rules will always provide guidance for persons doing business with the board, as well as provide for the orderly dispatch of business.  But beyond those statutory requirements, they will also promote public trust and confidence in our property tax system—a benefit on which we can all agree.

Mark D. Armstrong, CIAO-M, was a member of the Kane County Board of Review from 2004 to 2006, and has been Clerk of that Board since 2006.  He can be reached at ArmstrongMark@KaneCountyIL.gov.


[i] 35 ILCS 200/16-30.

[ii] 35 ILCS 200/9-5.

[iii] Id.

[iv] Citizens Federation v. Brown, 134 Ill. App. 3d 1054, 1057 (Ill. App. Ct. 1985).

[v] 35 ILCS 200/16-20.

[vi] 35 ILCS 200/16-30.

[vii] 35 ILCS 200/16-25, 35 ILCS 200/16-55.

[viii] 35 ILCS 200/16-55.

[ix] 35 ILCS 200/16-50.

[x] 35 ILCS 200/16-60; 35 ILCS 200/16-65.

[xi] 35 ILCS 200/16-70.

[xii] Id.

[xiii] 35 ILCS 200/16-75.

[xiv] 35 ILCS 200/16-85; 35 ILCS 200/16-90.

[xv] 35 ILCS 200/16-35.

[xvi] Chicago Sheraton Corp. v. Zaban, 71 Ill. 2d 85, 91-92 (Ill. 1978).

[xvii] 1991 Op.Atty.Gen. No. 91-040.

[xviii] BLTREJV3 Chicago, LLC v. Kane County Board of Review, Docket No. 2-14-0164, 4 (Ill. App. Ct. 2014).

[xix] 35 ILCS 200/6-60.

[xx] Id.

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