Bottom line, Illinois House Bill 506 is a very poorly written bill. An initiative of the Cook County Assessor, the bill adds language to the Property Tax Code that would empower county assessors to authorize a tax lien and penalties for those who have been granted one (or more) erroneous homestead exemptions.
While the Illinois Association of REALTORS® believes that property taxpayers should not be allowed to claim homestead exemptions they do not qualify for, we strongly oppose homeowners being penalized if the error is not theirs nor if there is not “knowing or willful” intent to give false information.
That was the message delivered to Illinois lawmakers during veto session by IAR lobbyists in pressing testimony in House and Senate committees as well as via an IAR Call for Action that resulted in hundreds of e-mails from Illinois REALTORS® asking for a no-vote on this bill that could negatively affect homeowners across the state.
As a result, the bill was NOT called for a vote last week during the Illinois General Assembly’s fall veto session and, thus, it was not sent on to the Governor for signature. Which means the bill could be amended to address issues raised by Illinois REALTORS® or it could join the ranks of the thousands of bad ideas that IAR works to stop in the name of protecting private property rights.
Why, again, is HB506 such a bad bill?
The core problem here is that under the current system, most homestead exemptions are automatically renewed from year to year. If a homeowner’s status changes and they become ineligible for a particular exemption, unless they affirmatively take action to remove the exemption, they could wind up facing back taxes and hefty penalties and interest, which become a tax lien on the property.
One of the points raised by IAR has been that if we are going to have a system that imposes these kinds of penalties, then that system is also going to have to include a process whereby a homeowner annually applies or affirms that they are eligible for whatever exemptions they are claiming. That way, the enforcement is targeted at those who have affirmatively stated that they qualify for something they are not entitled to claim.
IAR thanks its members who answered the Call for Action last week. It made a difference.
Stay tuned for the latest on this bill at http://www.iaractioncenter.org/. And next time you receive an IAR Call for Action by e-mail, please take a moment to send a message to your state lawmaker.