Empty businesses may lose county tax incentives

If within two years business properties are not leased, sold or developed, Cook County can take action to revoke the tax incentives.
The Cook County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed an ordinance amendment on April 25 that was sponsored by 6th District Commissioner Donna Miller. The measure will amend the revocation clause in the County Code for Class 6B through Class 8 property tax incentives.
The amendment adds conditions for suspension and revocation of property tax incentives received by property owners if they are not leased, sold or developed after two years of receiving incentives.
“Most vacant properties are well maintained, but many are not and thousands can sit empty for years, deteriorating to the point where they cannot be reused without major rehabilitation with many ultimately being demolished, leaving vacant lots in their place,” said Miller.
“Besides their impact on social and economic conditions, unproductive properties have a devastating effect on the fiscal condition of their cities, towns and counties and should not benefit from tax incentives if they are not used for their intended purpose,” Miller added. 
Beginning with the 2019 assessment year, the amendment allows municipalities to notify, via application to the Cook County assessor, that a property owner has been receiving for at least two years a reduction in their assessed valuation through the property tax incentive and has not progressed with the sale, lease or development of the property. 
The assessor’s office may suspend the incentive for up to two years and the owner must reapply to have the incentive reinstated. Absent the reapplication and supporting documentation within that time frame, the tax incentive will be revoked by the assessor.
“In her first months, Commissioner Donna Miller is addressing one of the most important parts of our tax system to make sure it is fair and that incentives go to those bringing business to Cook County,” said Commissioner Bridget Gainer, chairman of the Business & Economic Development Committee.
Miller said the initiative had the support of local mayors and economic development directors in the South Suburbs, and several came to testify at the Business & Economic Development Committee. 
“I am very cognizant of the need to spur economic development in our communities. However, I also know that vacant and abandoned properties pay little in property taxes and generate little revenue for the city or county when sold at tax sales,” Miller said. 
“They further reduce property tax collections by millions of dollars by devaluing neighboring properties, so I’m hopeful this measure will give us another tool to ensure our economic tax incentives are being put to good use,” she added. 

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