Cook County extends office hours for end-of-year rush to pre-pay property taxes

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The Cook County treasurer’s office is issuing more than $8 million in automatic property tax refunds. | Sun-Times

Time is running out for taxpayers eager to get a jump on their property taxes before changes recently passed by Congress kick in — but in Cook County, office hours are being extended to give them a hand.

Cook County Treasurer Pappas said her office will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, New Year’s Eve, for those wanting to pay in-person on the final day. After 5 p.m., payment can be dropped off in a mailbox set up next to the door to Pappas’s office, 118 N. Clark St., Room 112.

Payments will be honored provided they are made or dropped off before midnight Sunday.

On Saturday, the office will be closed, but payments can be made at a Chase Bank branch.

Officials in DuPage, Kane, Lake and Will counties, however, were not opening on the weekend; there, Friday is the last day to pay.

Why the rush? Because starting in 2018, deductions on federal tax returns for property taxes and state and local income taxes will be capped.

In Illinois and elsewhere, local officials had told residents that property taxes due next year could be pre-paid through the end of this year; that way, the full amount paid this year could still be deducted on federal returns 2017 returns filed next year.

But an IRS advisory issued Wednesday appeared to throw a monkey wrench into the works. The directive, which some found confusing, drew a distinction between paying an estimated amount and paying exact amounts on assessments made prior to 2018.

Pappas has seen the new IRS advisory and said Cook County residents who pre-pay will not be affected. Still, she urged residents to check with their accountants if they had any questions.

“There’s no guessing what the amount is. This is an exact bill,” she said.

About 63,000 people had prepaid by Thursday morning. In all they had paid $407 million, with three days left to pay, Pappas told the Sun-Times. About a fourth of the money had come from about 16,000 people paying on just Wednesday and Thursday.

Pappas said she expects the same pace to continue the rest of the weekend.

“I’m expecting the real crush over the next three days,” she told the Sun-Times. “People are just waking up from Christmas and they’re just finding out about this.”

There are three ways to pay before it’s over.

Taxpayers can pay their bill online at CookCountyTreasurer.com by selecting “Prepay Your 2017 Taxes” and using their bank account or credit card to complete the transaction.

People can also download their bill on the same website and mail the bill along with payment to: Cook County Treasurer; P.O. Box 805436; Chicago, IL 60680.

The third way is to pay in person at the treasurer’s office or a Chase Bank branch.

Not many people have paid in-person, though. About 3,700 people have mailed their payment or dropped it off at Pappas’s office so far.

Kevin Golden said it was easy to pre-pay his property taxes, especially since he had the money set aside anyway. | Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Kevin Golden said it was easy to pre-pay his property taxes, especially since he had the money set aside anyway. | Nader Issa/Sun-Times

About 38,000 have paid with a direct debit on the Treasurer’s website, 16,000 have paid at a Chase branch and 4,000 have used a credit card, Pappas said.

In some suburban counties, lines were long and offices were packed as residents waited to pay.

There was less frenzy at Pappas’s office in the Loop, where a small line had formed, and not everyone waiting was there to pre-pay.

Kevin Golden was one of the few.

“I had this money saved to pay my taxes anyway,” said Golden, a Cook County homeowner. “So I decided to put it down now, while I can make these deductions, instead of in February.”

Golden, 51, was one of a couple of dozen people who filed into Pappas’ office over a couple of hours Thursday morning.

He said the process was straight-forward and wasn’t confusing.

“I learned about it, and once I was informed I made an easy decision,” Golden said. “They were very helpful and advised me how to do everything.”

Contributing: Lynn Sweet

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