Cook County audits apartment landlords in parking tax crackdown

Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle and a Chicago parking garage (Credit: Facebook and iStock)

Auditors working for the Cook County Board of Commissioners have clawed back about $700,000 in back taxes from parking operators, in part by cracking down on a tax exemption that benefits apartment landlords and their tenants.

Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s office is conducting at least 20 audits of private parking operators, reviewing taxes paid going back seven years, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Apartment landlords who offer off-street parking for their tenants typically receive a break on the 9-percent monthly tax the county collects on parking operators.

But the exemption can only be claimed if landlords’ parking agreements are included in their lease — or exactly match the language of their lease — leaving out more informal and month-to-month arrangements.

Preckwinkle is a leading candidate for mayor who last month was sworn in for her third term as board president. She has earned a reputation for wringing tax dollars from property owners to ease the county’s continual budget squeeze. Since 2011, she has more than quadrupled the county’s staff of field auditors from five to 21, and added six revenue assessment analysts.

Last month, Preckwinkle supported a county measure to slap a 6-percent tax on parking reservation apps like SpotHero.

Many homeowners and landlords have also seen property tax hikes since previous Cook County assessor Joe Berrios was criticized for undervaluing expensive properties, and bills are expected to spike further under Fritz Kaegi, his successor.

Apartment landlords are also playing defense against a series of tenant-focused regulations being proposed at the city and state level, including a growing movement to overturn the state’s ban on rent control. [Chicago Tribune] — Alex Nitkin

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