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Cook County Treasurer’s Office staff member Nick Tiniakos holds a sack of envelopes of pre-paid property taxes Sunday. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

No lines on deadline to pre-pay property taxes

SHARE No lines on deadline to pre-pay property taxes
SHARE No lines on deadline to pre-pay property taxes

The hordes some expected never materialized. But a steady stream of people made their way into Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas’s office on Sunday, the last day to pre-pay property taxes.

They are part of a group that ballooned in the past few days: folks eager to get a jump on their property taxes before changes recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump kick in.

One key change is that, starting in 2018, deductions on federal tax returns for property taxes and state and local income taxes will be capped.

A woman from Oak Park chose to make the trip downtown instead of filing online because seeing someone physically stamp her paperwork offered her peace of mind.

Pappas’s office had collected more than 113,400 pre-payments totaling $692,329,744.31 as of noon Sunday. The number dwarfs the 1,775 pre-payments collected last year.

And the number will continue to rise, Pappas said, pointing to a staffer carrying a hefty sack of payments delivered by mail that had yet to be tallied.

Her 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday office hours were a bit of a novelty. Officials in DuPage, Kane, Lake and Will counties were not open on the weekend; there, Friday was the last day to pre-pay.

A mailbox was set up next to the door to Pappas’ office on the first floor of the county building, 118 N. Clark St. All payments dropped off beforemidnight Sunday would be honored.

Pappas greeted customers with a personal touch.

“Here to pay your property taxes? Good. First have some baklava and cake and coffee,” she implored people as they wandered in every few minutes.

The grub was left over from a Christmas party, she noted with a smile.

Ridvan Alka appreciated the gesture. He heard on a morning newscast this week about the money people stand to save by filing early, so he did.

“It was super easy. I expected to wait in line but I didn’t have to. It took five minutes. I just gave them the PIN number on my property and they pulled it up and I cut a check,” said Alka, 44, a general contractor from Des Plaines. “Hopefully I save a few hundred bucks.”

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 could still be deducted on 2017 federal income tax returns.

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.

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.

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