June 13, 2019
Cook County taxpayers have exceptionally long wait to correct tax mistakes
(CHICAGO) – A Civic Federation analysis released today explores the history and repercussions of the significant accumulation of cases at the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB), which stood at 62,077 at the end of State fiscal year 2018. The backlog is primarily driven by a high volume of cases coming from Cook County, as well as insufficient resources and outdated operational practices at PTAB. The full report is available here.
As detailed in the report, Cook County cases made up 83.9% of outstanding cases as of the end of fiscal year 2018. While Cook County does encompass a large portion of the State’s property—holding nearly one-third of the State’s 5.8 million parcels of property and 45% of its taxable value—the County’s property footprint and the number of cases pending from Cook County at PTAB are not proportional. Based on the clearance rates and the filing volumes documented in the report, it can be stated that the PTAB backlog is a Cook County backlog and is related to the high filing volume for residential, commercial and industrial cases there.
PTAB is one of two property tax appeal options available to Illinois property owners and taxing districts after a county’s Board of Review. While PTAB plays an important role in ensuring justice for property owners, it remains obscure to both the public and to State officials. Many reforms have been proposed by different stakeholders to improve operations at PTAB. However, not enough has been done to significantly improve the Board’s backlog of cases as the number of appeals filed annually has climbed. PTAB has been understaffed for over a decade and a number of outdated practices at PTAB contribute to the delay in processing cases, including the enormous amount of time the Board spends on motions for extensions of time and the absence of electronic filing.
“The sizeable backlog of cases at PTAB delays justice for taxpayers who have been incorrectly taxed—for years longer than is reasonable in some cases,” said Civic Federation President Laurence Msall. “In addition, units of government that have to make refunds as a result of PTAB decisions pay them out of current revenues. It is important to recognize that the inefficient workflow at PTAB also breeds uncertainty for local taxing bodies.”
The Federation’s report makes a number of recommendations to reduce the backlog and improve operations at PTAB. These include expanding the role of Administrative Law Judges, expediting the process of filing and ruling on motions for extensions of time and streamlining procedures for small residential cases.
“As the number of appeals from Cook County continues to grow, it is critical that the PTAB be given the resources it needs to reduce the backlog and ensure justice for taxpayers and taxing bodies,” said Msall.
The Federation recognizes that the PTAB has historically been underfunded and understaffed. However, the Civic Federation does not support increasing PTAB’s budget unless the Board first implements more commonsense procedural and rule changes.