Sen. Tammy Duckworth avoids paying property taxes on Illinois home with disabled vet tax break

The Democratic senator from Illinois also owns a $1.3 million home in McLean, Va.
Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois)
Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois)
(Tom Williams / Getty Images)

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) avoids paying property taxes on her primary residence in Cook County, Ill., because of the state's disabled veteran tax break.

Since 2015, Duckworth hasn't had to pay property taxes on her three-bedroom, 1,600-square-foot home, valued at $252,250 by Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi because of an Illinois tax break that goes to veterans certified as at least 70% disabled by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The senator's tax breaks over the last six years total $42,479 — $4,637 from the homeowner exemption that is received by nearly every homeowner and the $37,842 from the disabled veteran's exemption.

Duckworth and her husband would have had to pay $6,920 in property taxes this year on their Illinois home without the tax break, which applies to homes valued at no more than $775,000 last year, the Sun-Times reported. Disabled veterans who own homes valued more than $775,000 still receive steep tax cuts.

There is no limit on household income for veterans and their spouses to be eligible for the tax exemption, which remains for the rest of the disabled veteran's life, but has to be reapplied for each year with VA certification that the vet is at least 30% disabled. After the veteran's death, their surviving spouse can still collect the benefit unless they remarry, according to the newspaper.

Duckworth, whose salary as a senator is $174,000 a year, first qualified for the tax break when she was a representative in the House. She received the Purple Heart after losing both legs when she was piloting a helicopter for the Illinois Army National Guard and was shot down in Iraq in 2004. Bryan Bowlsbey, Duckworth's husband, was a National Guardsman and retired with the rank of major, now working for a cybersecurity company, the Sun-Times reported.

Duckworth received over $300,000 in royalties in 2019 and 2020 from her memoir, "Every Day Is A Gift."

Both Duckworth and her husband own a second house in McLean, Va., which they bought for $1.3 million in 2017, and has six bedrooms, an in-ground pool, and is 4,100-square-feet.

They pay property taxes on that home, which totaled $16,351 this year. She could receive a disabled veteran property tax break in Virginia for the McLean home if she declared it her primary residence, but she is unable to do so while being an Illinois senator, according to the news outlet.

On Friday, after being asked about the property tax exemption, she said to reporters, "I'm surprised that someone would question veterans who have been wounded in service to their nation in a combat zone accessing benefits."

Duckworth's Senate spokesman Ben Garmisa said she receives the same benefits available to any similarly disabled veteran.

Illinois "offers this benefit to all veterans with service-connected disabilities above a 70% rating," he said, the Sun-Times reported. "Sen. Duckworth has always believed that everyone should pay their fair share in taxes and that those who served this nation in uniform deserve and should claim the benefits they earned."