Preckwinkle pushing revenue measures improving services, cutting taxpayer costs

Items include waiving credit card transaction fees and lowered interest rates on late payments Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Wednesday introduced a series of proposed measures aimed at eliminating County credit card transaction fees and lowering the interest rates for various late payments. The ordinances are expected to be called for a full board vote in December. The Board of Commissioners also approved a separate intergovernmental agreement (IGA) creating a one-stop collection point for the Use Tax on Non-Retail Transfers of Motor Vehicles. “These measures save taxpayer dollars, improve customer service and encourage punctual payments to the County,” Preckwinkle said. “By waiving fees, strengthening our collaboration with the Illinois Department of Revenue and reducing penalties on late payments, we can reduce costs and increase convenience.” Like a number of local and state governments, Cook County is working to eliminate fees on payments made by credit card for Cook County Department of Revenue (CCDOR) transactions. Currently, residents are assuming the costs being charged by credit card companies to process online transactions. A similar plan implemented by the City of Denver in early 2014 immediately saw an overall increase in credit card payments by almost 50% and a dramatic acceleration in revenue collection. CCDOR estimates an additional $1.2 million will be collected by waiving transaction charges. In 2014, $1.76 million was collected via credit card payments. The newly approved IGA with the Illinois Department of Revenue allows for the collection of the County’s Use Tax on Non-Retailer Transfers of Motor Vehicles at the time of state vehicle registration. This can dramatically increase collection of the tax while making it more convenient for the taxpayer. Cook County currently collects the Use Tax on Non-Retailer Transfers of Motor Vehicles by sending an invoice to approximately 180,000 vehicle purchasers. This invoice is sent out when CCDOR receives purchase information from the Secretary of State, which is provided after the vehicle has been registered. Through this IGA and an ordinance amendment, the tax can be collected by IDOR at the same time the car is registered and the taxpayer is paying state taxes. As a benefit to taxpayers, an amendment to the Uniform Penalties, Interest and Procedures Ordinance (UPIP) will apply all payments first to interest, then to tax owed, and finally to penalties, thereby reducing the potential interest owed. Monthly interest is also being lowered from 1.25% to 1%. A financial hardship section has also been added which codifies a practice where taxpayers can apply for a reduction in tax due to financial difficulties. UPIP applies to all County tax ordinances administered by CCDOR. “We are taking important steps to save Cook County residents time and money,” Finance Chairman John P. Daley said. “Making it easier to pay online, streamlining services and waving transaction fees are commonsense conveniences to taxpayers.” The Cook County Board of Commissioners recently voted overwhelmingly in support of Preckwinkle’s proposed budget that contains no new taxes, fines or fees for the second consecutive year.