Owe cash to Chicago? City may claim your tax refund

February 14, 2012 2:44:43 PM PST
If you owe money to the City of Chicago, the city wants a piece of your state income tax refund to pay your bill. That's an idea being considered by the City Council.

Quickly and quietly Tuesday, the city took another step toward opening another revenue stream. The money would come through Springfield thanks to a December change in state law. The dollars would originate from city fines and fees levied months and years ago but never paid.

"The taxpayers of the city are owed hundreds of millions of dollars and people not paying their fines or their fees," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

As the mayor spoke, the City Council budget committee advanced his proposed ordinance that could mean anywhere from eight to $20 million in additional revenue each year.

"The taxpayer who obeys the law and pays his or her obligations every year wants to know the city is going after those folks who don't," said Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd Ward.

Individuals and businesses with overdue parking tickets, red light camera citations and other unpaid fines set by city hearing officers could have the amounts deducted from their Illinois tax refunds.

"This was a state law that was passed and we're just doing our share to comply with that state law," said Emanuel.

The Emanuel administration has stepped up efforts locally to collect overdue fines and fees already on the books, and experts predict will assess many millions more in penalties later this year after the city installs speed cameras near schools and parks.

Aldermen Pat Dowell, who says she opposes speed cams, agrees that the fiscally challenged city should use the state to collect what it's owed.

"Any additional money that we can get back into our coffers, we need to provide services to the people in our community," said Ald. Pat Dowell, 3rd Ward.

The full City Council will vote on the measure at Wednesday's regular meeting. It is expected to pass. The state also gets a small collection fee each time it makes a claim for the city.