Archive for the ‘Illinois’ Category

Mundane Tax Fraud Downs Friend of Cicero Town President

Monday, December 1st, 2014

George Hunter will likely be going to ClubFed. He pleaded guilty today to two counts of tax evasion. Mr. Hunter’s company received $1.8 million in two years from Cicero…without a contract. Mr. Hunter is friends with Larry Dominick, the Ton President of Cicero. Cicero is a suburb of Chicago. The Chicago Sun-Times article notes that Mr. Hunter has refused to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

As for the tax evasion, it’s pretty mundane. Mr. Hunter paid his employees in cash and told his employees not to report their income to the IRS. He didn’t, and not paying payroll taxes is a major issue with the IRS. He also failed to file a 2008 tax return when he allegedly made $655,000. Mr. Hunter originally said the charges were brought because he refused to cooperate with authorities. No matter, the charges apparently were true. He’ll be sentenced in March.

Corruption in Chicago? Who would’ve thunk it!

Since the Dead Vote, Why Can’t They Get Tax Exemptions?

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

I grew up in Chicago. It’s legendary in Chicago that the dead vote. My father told me that during the 1960 presidential election that Democrats waited to see how many of the dead they needed to vote to ensure that John F. Kennedy won Illinois over Republican Richard Nixon (I can’t vouch for the veracity of that story).

It seems that the voting dead in Chicago also want senior property tax exemptions. In Cook County if you are over 65 and have a limited income (under $55,000), you qualify for a senior exemption. Well, since the dead can’t take it with them (or so I’ve been told) they’re apparently being generous to the living.

Cook County has begun to make sure that seniors are truly alive when taking the exemption. They’re combing the Social Security death list (this is a very legitimate use of that list) and have a contract with LexisNexis to find the living dead. Zombies aren’t eligible for that tax exemption. To date, they’ve discovered 3,809 cases representing $6.2 million of improper exemptions.

It looks like the living dead are on borrowed time in Cook County for this exemption.

Bears Sacked; Lose Court Case Worth $4.1 Million

Monday, August 11th, 2014

No, Jay Cutler didn’t throw one of his usual interceptions. Instead, Judge Mary Mason of the 1st District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that the Chicago Bears had underpaid Cook County’s Amusement Tax.

The story begins when ancient Soldier Field was rebuilt in 2002 – 2003. The stadium was completely rebuilt, with premium suites added. Those suites are the subject of the dispute.

In 2007, the Cook County Revenue Department audited the Bears. The Bears priced the tickets for the seats in the suites at $104 per game. However, the suite rents for more than 100 times that. As the Chicago Tribune reported,

But Mason took the Bears to task for the $104 value the team put on a seat in a luxury suite. If the average rent for a suite is $150,000, the judge said the suite holder paid about $15,000 per game, including eight regular season and two preseason games. Dividing that figure by 20 seats yields a per-ticket price of $750.

The Bears added various fees and non-amusement services to each ticket. Judge Mason’s ruling noted that these should be subject to the amusement tax:

The absurdity of excluding the vast majority of ticket revenues from the amusement tax when the generation of those revenues is driven by fans’ desire for the ‘privileges’ associated with premium seats renders the Bears’ position untenable.

The Bears can appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

It’s Only a 56% Tax Increase…

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

In the, “Tales, I win, heads, you lose” news of the week comes word of a 56% increase in Chicago’s telephone tax. The tax increase might prevent a $50 million property tax increase…but then again it might not.

The issues all stem from the problems with pensions in Chicago and Illinois. For those who aren’t familiar with the issues, Illinois is so far underwater on pensions that the state is in even worse shape that California. Chicago city pensions are in a similar situation–badly unfunded.

I’ll let the Chicago Sun Times tell a little of the story:

Instead of asking the Illinois General Assembly to simply renew a $2.50-a-month surcharge on telephone bills due to expire July 1, cash-strapped Chicago seized the opportunity to get more money — by persuading state lawmakers to raise the cap to “the highest monthly wireline surcharge imposed by any county or municipality” in Illinois.

That means Chicago can go up to $3.90, and increase a transaction fee on prepaid cellphones from 7% to 9%. The tax increase overall is expected to bring in $50.4 million. Earlier, Chicago’s city council passed a $250 million property tax increase ($50 million a year for five years); the phone tax increase will bring in enough money to possibly stop the first year of the property tax increase. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the Board of Aldermen (the official name of Chicago’s city council) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel will actually stop a tax increase.

Perhaps the city might look at cutting costs, too. Perhaps I’m also dreaming….

Illinois’ Bankrupt Pension Systems and Tax Hikes

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

I was born and raised just outside of Chicago. I still root for Chicago sports teams (Blackhawks, Bears, and Cubs). Yet I’m quite happy that I don’t reside in Illinois today. Illinois’ pension systems are basically bankrupt and Democrats in the Illinois legislature have but one solution: tax hikes.

The Illinois Policy Institute has a research report noting that taxpayer contributions to state pension funds have skyrocketed. But didn’t Illinois pass a tax increase in 2011 that would “solve” the state’s budget woes? Yes, such a tax increase passed; no, the budget woes haven’t vanished.

Unfortunately, the Democrats in the Land of Lincoln have a proposal that will solve the problems: more tax hikes! State Representative Naomi Jakobsson has introduced HJRCA0033 which would make Illinois’ state income tax progressive, with a top rate of 9%. The state’s rate would be 4% at just $18,000 of income (the state’s tax rate is supposed to be just 3.75% in 2015). .As the Illinois Policy Institute noted, this will hurt the working and middle classes hard.

The only true solution is to attack the cause of the problems. That means pensions and state spending in Illinois will need to drop drastically. That’s not likely to happen until the voters force it upon Springfield.

The Flow of AGI from One State to Another

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

From watchdog.org comes an interesting interactive map showing how money has flowed from state to state. Back when I moved to Nevada from California, I noted this issue. Here’s yet more verification that this is real.

The five biggest losers were:
1. New York ($68.10 billion in annual Adjusted Gross Income (AGI))
2. California ($45.27 billion in annual AGI)
3. Illinois ($29.27 billion in annual AGI)
4. New Jersey ($20.62 billion in annual AGI)
5. Ohio ($18.39 billion in annual AGI)

The five biggest winners were:
1. Florida ($95.61 billion in annual AGI)
2. Arizona ($28.30 billion in annual AGI)
3. North Carolina ($25.12 billion in annual AGI)
4. Texas ($24.94 billion in annual AGI)
5. Nevada ($18.17 billion in annual AGI)

Sure, some of this is retirees moving from the snow belt to the sun belt. But California is anything but part of the snow belt; it’s clear that successful individuals are fleeing high tax states for low tax states. We here in Nevada are appreciative of the $9.59 billion in annual AGI that has moved from the Bronze Golden State to the Silver State.

Interestingly, the interactive map allows you to look county-by-county. The areas that one would think would show AGI growth are losing AGI. The area around Silicon Valley has lost AGI; so have Los Angeles and Orange County. Sure, some of this is retirees moving to the desert (Riverside County, which includes Palm Springs, showed an increase in AGI). However, there is no chance that this is just caused by retirees.

Taxes matter, and individuals absolutely do relocate because of taxes.

Beavers Convicted: Loans Require Payback

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

I’m shocked, just shocked to find out that there’s corruption in Chicago.

Actually, I’m not. I’m just surprised to find out that gambling led to the downfall of a cog in the Democrats’ machine politics in the Windy City. Commissioner Bill Beavers was convicted today of corruptly impeding the IRS and three counts of filing false tax returns. Beavers used his campaign warchest as a personal piggy bank to fund gambling trips to the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana.

Beavers and his attorneys alleged that the money he took from the campaign funds were “loans.” There’s one thing about loans that I emphasize to my clients: They require documentation. As Assistant US Attorney Matt Getter said, “He put back [only] what he needed to put back to cover his tracks.” Acting US Attorney was more succinct:

The message that was sent here was that Bill Beavers took a lot of money people gave him to run his campaigns and he stuck it in his pocket, and a lot of it, he gambled…For that, at least, he should have paid his taxes, and he didn’t.

One of Mr. Beavers’ statements is interesting: “There’s no law against what I did…There’s no law against gambling with campaign funds.” I have no idea of the state of Illinois’ campaign finance laws; however, I do know something about the Internal Revenue Code. If you take money from a campaign fund and use it personally, it is almost certainly income to you. And that income is clearly taxable. Further, not reporting all your income on your tax return can be a crime. In Mr. Beavers’ case, it was a crime.

Mr. Beavers may continue to proclaim his innocence, calling the judge “unfair.” From my point of view, it looks like the government did a pretty good job of proving its case.

No sentencing date has been announced.

News Reports: Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times

It’s 6,219 Miles from Calumet City to Amman

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

What does Calumet City, Illinois have in common with Amman, Jordan? To be honest, not very much at all. However, this story begins in Calumet City and takes a detour through Amman before ending in Chicago (with a probable side trip to Springfield, Illinois).

Samer Farhan owns a gas station in Calumet City, along with another in Chicago. Gas stations have to collect lots of taxes: State sales tax, state gasoline tax, and federal gasoline tax. Of course, most people would prefer not paying taxes. Mr. Farhan is accused of taking this a bit too far on remitting others’ money that he collected.

Remember, when a business collects sales tax they become the agent of government. Like with employment trust fund taxes, sales tax agencies don’t like it when some of the money doesn’t end up where it belongs. Sales tax agencies regularly audit many businesses.

Mr. Farhan is accused of 28 counts of filing phony sales tax returns, two counts of mail fraud and five of money laundering. Mr. Farhan is alleged to have lowered the amount of sales so he didn’t have to pay nearly $1 million in sales taxes. That’s a lot of gasoline. However, he’s accused of going further–literally. Mr. Farhan allegedly took some of the profits of his scheme and sent them to a bank in Amman, Jordan; that money then supposedly returned to him. If proven, that’s money laundering. The Illinois Department of Revenue had the help of the US Secret Service in that aspect of the case.

Mr. Farhan will have a preliminary hearing later this month. If convicted on all charges, he’s looking at a lengthy term in prison (plus restitution).

Illinois’ Pension Problems Get Worse; Lottery Checks Bounce

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Two stories out of Illinois that are, perhaps, linked. First, the Illinois Lottery forgot to send some money to their bank. While a spokesperson for the Illinois Lottery said it was a mistake, one would think that balancing the checkbook is a high priority. While only $159,000 of checks bounced, and the Illinois Lottery will make good on the bounced check fees, it certainly can’t be considered good planning. (I do believe that this was an oversight.)

A far more serious issue for the Land of Lincoln is the growing backlog of bills. The Chicago-based Civic Federation says that unless pensions and Medicaid are cut, Illinois’ backlog of bills will triple to $22 billion in five years. The annual budget in Illinois is currently $24.3 billion. To put this in perspective, the total budget for the most recent fiscal year for Nevada is $4.9 billion.

Unlike the federal government which can print money, states can’t. Sooner or later Illinois will have to balance its books. The pension costs are not sustainable. So, do you increase taxes further, which drives business out of state, or do you cut pensions? Democrats control most offices in Illinois, and they don’t want to cut pensions. Yet tax increases won’t work in the long run, so cuts to entitlements on the state level will occur…sooner or later.

In the end, spending more money than you take in is a good way to go broke. If I were offered a government contract by the state of Illinois, I’d turn them down unless they’d pay me up-front. That’s the level that I think Illinois has fallen to.

Jackson’s Fall Includes Tax Charge

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

I was going to put in a line in this post, “Will the first Chicago politician who is honest, forthright, and not corrupt please stand up?” However, I realized that there must be some politician in the Windy City who is honest (at least some of the time). The last three governors of Illinois all went to prison (and it’s equal opportunity corruption: both Republicans and Democrats). Joining them will be former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. and his wife, Sandi (a former Alderman in Chicago).

Mr. Jackson resigned last November from Congress; Ms. Jackson resigned in January from the Chicago City Council. Both are pleading guilty: Mr. Jackson to conspiracy and Ms. Jackson to filing a false tax return. They pleaded guilty on Friday.

The scheme apparently had them using “business” credit cards (here, business is their re-election campaign) for personal expenses. As this blog has highlighted numerous times in the past (and will likely do numerous times in the future), you can’t put personal expenses on a business return. And we’re not talking nickel and dime purchases; the total is $582,772.58. Add in filing false campaign reports and you have problems.

There’s even a tie to Las Vegas. Mr. Jackson has a greed to forfeit $750,000 plus a host of memorabilia; much of that memorabilia was purchased from Antiquities of Nevada, a store here in Las Vegas. If you follow US Treasury auctions, you soon will be able to buy a football signed by several presidents, an Eddie Van Halen guitar, Bruce Lee memorabilia, and a lot more. But I digress….

I’m a native of Chicago and love the city. I’m a fan of the Blackhawks and Cubs. That said, the corruption in Chicago is something I don’t miss.