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Illinois General Assembly Passes Property Tax Fraud Legislation
Measure Estimated to Recover More than $60 Million in the First Year

Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Special to

Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios announced that legislation he crafted to target property owners who fraudulently claim property tax exemptions was passed by the Illinois General Assembly.

The Assessor’s legislation was previously passed by the Illinois Senate with a 51-0 vote and was just passed in the House with a 116-0 vote. By law, a person is allowed to collect an exemption only on the home that is his or her primary residence. SB41 will give assessors throughout Cook County the means to recoup funds from those who have improperly received homeowner, senior, disabled persons’ or disabled veterans’ exemptions.

“Each year, Cook County taxing bodies lose more than $60 million because people cheat or erroneously claim exemptions. We continue to discover taxpayers who are claiming multiple exemptions and we currently have no law in place to deter them or help recover the money they’ve unfairly received,” Assessor Berrios explained. Berrios thanked members of the Illinois General Assembly for their bipartisan support and encouraged Governor Quinn to act quickly and also approve the measure. “It is my sincere hope that the Governor realizes the merit of this legislation which is sure to have a dramatic and positive impact not only on taxing bodies but taxpayers throughout the county,” Berrios said. Berrios proposed the legislation shortly after taking office when his administration noticed the high volume of e-mails and anonymous phone calls complaining about people improperly receiving homeowner or senior exemptions.

In 95 percent of those cases, the claims were proven to be true. “We receive over 1,000 anonymous allegations a year,” Berrios said. “But we’ve never had a law with any teeth to go after the cheaters.”

SB41 provides for the collection and distribution of unpaid property taxes, penalties and interest: · Unpaid taxes will be paid to the original taxing districts. · Penalty fees will be paid to the chief county assessment officer for administrative costs.Interest collected will be paid to the county.

SB41 also provides an amnesty for individuals who wrongly claimed a homestead exemption. This amnesty extends until December 31st, 2013 and would allow a person who wrongly claimed one or two erroneous homestead exemptions prior to the 2013 tax year, to repay the amount received from said exemption(s) without penalty or interest or threat of civil and or criminal prosecution.

Notice of the amnesty will be provided with the 2012 second installment tax bills and will be published in a newspaper of general circulation. A taxpayer who claimed 3 or more homestead exemptions in error shall not be eligible for the amnesty period.

The bill is similar to laws in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, Texas, and Arizona. It allows the chief county assessment officer to administer property tax liens on the homes of those taxpayers who have received undue property tax exemptions.

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