Will DuPage Airport tenants have to pay back taxes?

  • Companies leasing property from DuPage Airport are not paying property taxes on those parcels and there's nothing that can be done to force them to. Nearly $770,000 in back property taxes are owed on seven parcels.

      Companies leasing property from DuPage Airport are not paying property taxes on those parcels and there's nothing that can be done to force them to. Nearly $770,000 in back property taxes are owed on seven parcels. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer, November 2018

 
 
Updated 1/23/2019 9:40 AM

DuPage Airport Authority tenants owing thousands of dollars in overdue property taxes still haven't ponied up. Will the county ever make them pay?

Coupon clipping can save you a few dollars on a product, but you might have to pay full freight on the sales tax.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

And a suburban legislator wants to crack down on municipal conference spending.

These updates, plus an answer to a reader's question, are the topics of this week's column.

Delinquent tenant taxes

Tenants at the DuPage Airport Authority that owe hundreds of thousands in back property taxes still haven't paid up.

That's according to DuPage County Treasurer Gwen Henry, who said her office and airport leaders are working together to ensure the airport's tenants pay their tax bills in the future. The airport is owned by the county and overseen by DuPage County Board appointees.

A Daily Herald investigation in November uncovered the issue when airport-owned properties showed up on the treasurer's annual report that lists properties with overdue tax bills. Three current tenants owe more than $475,000 combined in delinquent property taxes, according to tax records from Henry's office.

"We haven't forgotten about it," Henry said. "We're working on it."

Another four former tenants that owed about $300,000 combined will probably never have to pay, Henry said.

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"The DuPage Airport Authority has met with the DuPage County treasurer and all tenants who are in arrears to secure back payments," said David Bird, the airport's executive director. "We are looking at possible legislation to prevent this from happening again, not only to the authority, but to all governmental agencies across the state."

Airport officials said they haven't approached a specific legislator about sponsoring such a bill yet.

In Cook County, the Board of Review has been checking for similar instances of nonpayment since November but has not found any, Commissioner Dan Patlak said.

Despite being on land owned by a government, DuPage Airport tenants are charged property taxes on what the value of that land and structure would be if it were privately held. However, because it is public land, it can't be seized if the tenants fail to pay property taxes.

Without that leverage, some DuPage Airport tenants admitted they chose not to pay the taxes, in some cases for decades. Going forward, Henry said the airport administration will receive copies of tenants' tax bills and delinquency notices "to make sure the taxes get paid."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Coupon clipped

Retired certified public accountant Dwayne Ennis of Naperville keeps meticulous records of his spending.

So it's not uncommon for him to go over his receipts when he runs errands to make sure everything adds up.

"McDonald's once gave me a free cup of coffee when I told them they refunded me for the cost of an item, but not the tax," he said. "It was only three cents to me, but three cents here and three cents there begins to add up, and who's getting it?"

After a recent trip to a major retailer to pick up paper towels, his inspection of the receipt left him flummoxed. He had a coupon for $6 off his $19.98 purchase. His sales tax should've been around $1.19, but instead it was $1.70, he said.

"It didn't make any sense to me, and all they said was that's how the state wants them to do it," Ennis said.

It did sound odd, and that's why we called the Illinois Department of Revenue to seek clarity.

It turns out, the retailer was still getting the full $19.98 for the paper towels because it was being reimbursed by the manufacturer for the $6 coupon Ennis used. So the actual sale price was $19.98, and the state's sales tax law requires payment for actual selling price.

According to state statute, the selling price is the total amount received by the retailer "whether received in money or otherwise, including cash, credits, property and services."

If the retailer was not being reimbursed, the smaller price would have been taxed, IDOR officials explained.

Ennis wasn't thrilled about the additional taxes, but he was happy to have an explanation.

"It's not going to change the way I shop," he said. "As long as I'm not being cheated, I'm fine. And as long as I find the explanation satisfactory, I'm fine. So I'm fine."

Back at it

After abandoning legislation last session aimed at banning tax dollars from being used by state agencies to rent out "booths, hospitality suites or other physical spaces" at conventions and conferences, Barrington Hills Republican state Rep. David McSweeney is trying again.

David McSweeney
David McSweeney

However, his new bill would also make it harder for municipal officials to participate in conferences and conventions.

"My hope is that the spending would be eliminated, but if someone really, really wants to do it, then it should be proved necessary to the public," McSweeney said.

The bill would require municipal officials to list the name, position and amount spent at these conferences on a separate line item of a municipal board's meeting agenda. Then, town officials would have to post that information on the municipal website 30 days before the board votes on the expenditure.

And finally, three-fifths of the city council or village board would have to approve the spending.

McSweeney filed the initial bill last year after a Daily Herald investigation of municipal spending at the annual Illinois Municipal League conference in downtown Chicago showed taxpayers covered bar tabs, meals and thousands of dollars in hotel charges during the three-day event hosted by the lobbying group.

The investigation revealed taxpayers covered more than $120,000 in expenses incurred by 151 elected officials or municipal employees in 50 suburbs.

The four tiny "Round Lake Area" suburbs accounted for more than $35,000 of the total spending.

McSweeney's previous bill had bipartisan support, but so far he has no other co-sponsors for the new bill.

Got a tip?

Contact Jake at jgriffin@dailyherald.com or (847) 427-4602.

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