Chicago Fast Tracks Recovering Old Parking Ticket Debt Through State Tax Refunds
Chicago has a lot of nicknames but maybe taxpayers should start calling it the “Fastest City on Earth”–at least when it comes to collecting revenue.
Less than two weeks ago, the Chicago City Council passed a debt recovery ordinance which allowed the city to use the Illinois State Comptroller’s office to grab taxpayer’s Illinois income tax refund to pay for outstanding debt from parking tickets, red light camera tickets, water bills and other other overdue debt.
The ordinance became effect on February 15th, the day the Mayor signed it.
Immediately, in fact that same day, the city transmitted the required paperwork to begin the process of intercepting taxpayer refunds on behalf of Chicago according to Illinois State Comptroller spokesperson Michael Dropka.
“The City of Chicago sent data to the state after passing an Intergovernmental Agreement on February 15, 2012,” said Dropka.
Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka’s office began issuing notice letters to affected taxpayers as early as February 21st, according to people who have received the letters.
Many angry taxpayers began receiving the notices from the Comptroller a few days later.
I got a letter today from the state claiming Chicago is withholding $100 from my income tax refund for an old parking ticket,” says Glen Popelka who resides in the western suburbs. “I called the city to get the details, and the ticket is a parking in the alley violation from October 8, 1993. The clerk says I challenged the ticket and lost, but never paid. They can not produce evidence of the challenge.”
Some drivers have been confused by the widely reported promise that past due debts were limited to only as far back as 2005, while in several instances tickets being collected upon go back as far as 20 years. The city, according to one person confused why they were on the hook for a parking ticket from 21 years ago, explained that in some cases, Notices of Final Determinations were sent on the tickets back in 2005. So even though the ticket may have been issued prior to 2005, the debt still was collectable under the new law.
Other taxpayers never even received the notice and found out by checking the Illinois Department of Revenue website.
“I never received a notice,” says Katherine C., who asked her last name be used. “I filled my return with Rapid Refund and when my state (refund) did not come in and it had been a month I went to the Illinois tax site to check the status again. It said “processed no refund”, with an 800 number.”
But when Katherine called the state’s 800 number, she was told of the City’s effort to collect debts for past due parking tickets and was given a City of Chicago number to call, which further angered her.
“I have called the Chicago number because there are no tickets under my license,” she fumed. “I don’t remember my plate number because it was so many years back, and that (phone) number stays busy all day.”
According to Dropka, taxpayers can protest the city’s effort to grab their tax refund.
“When an offset occurs, a resident receives a letter explaining everything in detail (i.e. reason for offset, what is owed, process for protest),” explained Dropka. “When it comes to protests specifically, residents are instructed to submit their challenge in writing with any supporting documents.”
Dropka says the city does not get the proceeds immediately. By law, they have to wait at least 60 days from the notice date to allow the taxpayer to file a protest. If a protest is filed, a hearing officer on behalf of Local Debt Recovery will make a determination on the validity of the protest between 1 and 30 days, depending how complex the matter may be.
At the very least, this new state law and companion Chicago municipal code, could significantly delay a taxpayer’s state refund.