Homeowners are lining up in droves at local tax collection offices, hoping for one last chance to take advantage of a major tax deduction before it is wiped out in the new year.
The tax overhaul signed last week by Republican President Donald Trump puts a new $10,000 limit on the amount of state and local taxes people can deduct from their income when calculating their federal tax liability.
That new cap could translate into a tax hike of hundreds or even thousands of dollars in mostly wealthier, high-tax communities in California, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey and other states.
People in some communities are trying to effectively delay that hike for a year by paying their 2018 taxes in advance.
The IRS said Wednesday that some homeowners who prepay local property taxes due in 2018 will be able to claim the deduction on this year's returns, but only if the taxes have already been assessed and billed. People can't guess at what next year's assessment might be, pay it now and claim a deduction for that amount.
"A prepayment of anticipated real property taxes that have not been assessed prior to 2018 are not deductible in 2017," the IRS said on its website.
Prepayments have skyrocketed to $312.8 million, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas said Thursday, calling the rush of homeowners looking to prepay a "tsunami."
According to Pappas, more than 60,000 homeowners have prepaid their taxes this month compared to 1,775 in 2016.
For those looking to prepay their taxes in Chicago's suburbs, here's a look at what you can do:
Residents can prepay only the first installment of their 2017 property tax bills online at at cookcountytreasurer.com or by mail at:
Cook County Treasurer
PO Box 805436
Chicago, IL 60680-4155
The payments can also be made in person at the Cook County Treasurer's office or at any Chase Bank in Illinois with an original prepayment tax bill or an electronic PDF tax bill downloadable here.
Those who pay by Dec. 31 will see the prepayment on their January bills.
The DuPage County Treasurer’s Office is accepting prepayments for the 2017 tax year in the form of cash, check or credit card until 4:30 p.m. Dec. 29. The Treasurer will accept payments up to 105 percent of last year’s tax obligation. You may send a check via mail or make payment at the treasurer's office, located at 421 N. County Farm Rd. in Wheaton. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Prepayment application forms are due at the treasurer's office by 4 p.m. Dec. 29.
Prepayments can be made for tax year 2017 through Dec. 29, but the maximum amount the office can accept is the total tax due in calendar year 2017. Lesser amounts are acceptable. Cash will not be accepted, but checks can be made payable to the Lake County Treasurer.
Online bill pay payments made through your bank’s online bill pay service will also be accepted and there will be a drop box outside the North Entrance of the county courthouse where payments may be left.
Prepayments received by mail postmarked Dec. 29 or earlier will be accepted.
"Due to extremely high volume of prepayments, it is likely that longer than normal processing times may be encountered when making payments and for receiving receipts," the treasurer's office wrote on its website.
Receipts will be given to taxpayers who pay in person and will be mailed to taxpayers paying by mail, electronically or via the drop box.
"We strongly recommend that you consult with your accountant or other tax professional before making your prepayment," the treasurer's office wrote.
Mailed payments can be addressed to:
Lake County Treasurer’ Office
18 North County Street, Room 102
Waukegan, IL 60085
In order to prepay, residents must fill out and sign The Advance Tax Agreement and returned it to the treasurer's office with a check by Dec. 29.
You can pay any outstanding balance by the first installment due date.