Lake County tax amnesty program open for businesses, too
By Rich Bird Post-Tribune correspondent July 28, 2012 7:48PM
Updated: August 30, 2012 6:14AM
CROWN POINT — Lake County Treasurer John Petalas is hoping businesses with delinquent tax bills, including those under appeal, will take advantage of the ongoing tax amnesty program.
Less than four weeks after the program opened to taxpayers with overdue bills from last year and prior, 61 have made appointments with the Treasurer’s office. Assuming they comply with their payment plans, those taxpayers will have thousands of dollars in interest and penalties waived, and county will recoup roughly $1 million in back taxes, Petalas said.
“We’ve had a lot of happy tax payers coming in here,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for people to get a big monkey off their back.”
According to Assistant Supervisor Heather Georgiadis, the office has two taxpayers booked every half hour through next Tuesday.
The 61 who have already taken advantage are a drop in the bucket compared to the roughly 19,000 tax sale notices that went out. Those who received the notices may not have noticed the fine print indicating they are eligible for the program, Petalas said.
In particular, he said there are many businesses that could save hundreds of thousands of dollars; however, Petalas believes that many local business leaders are not aware of the program because some tax sale notices are mailed to corporate offices out of state.
That is compounded by the fact that businesses going through the appeals process are not listed on the Treasurer’s tax sale, and were not given notice of the program, Georgiadis said.
“The ones who could really use this are a lot of industrial companies out there that could probably save in the six figures if they called us,” Petalas said. “The problem is the tax sale notices are going to corporate offices in Florida or California, or overseas. They’re not really paying attention to the amnesty portion of the tax sale notice. We’re hoping the local corporate bigwigs will say, ‘Hey we could save a lot of money.’
“We urge small businesses or large companies who are under some kind of appeal to contact us. In the end, removing the penalties and interest, they would probably save more money than if they went through with the appeal. The only way to determine that is to come in and make an appointment.”
To qualify, a property must be in arrears for bills due in 2011 or prior. The law does not apply to those who were only delinquent in May of this year.
Those who agree to the program also must make their payments for taxes due this year, and in the meantime, they can begin paying down their old bills. When the bills are paid the treasurer’s office will make the appeal to the auditors office to waive the interest and penalties.
“Most of these people are so messed up with the delinquent tax and penalties they wouldn’t have been able to make their current tax bill.
“Whoever doesn’t avail themselves of this in the next few weeks, those properties will end up on the treasurer’s sale in August. The sooner people get in here the better. The longer you wait the less time to have to be in the program. Anybody who signs up this month has a full 12 months (to pay).”
To avoid discrepancies, the treasurer’s office will not provide specific information over the phone. Those interested in learning more about the program should schedule an appointment by calling 755-3760, and ask for Irene.