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Chicago Taxpayer Fights New Penalty Scheme

CHICAGO (CN) - A man caught claiming homestead tax-exemptions on 10 Chicago properties says in court that the law subjecting him to a six-figure fine is unfair.

The class action Daniel Cuevas filed Feb. 10 in Cook County Circuit Court takes aim at a statute that took effect in 2013, which allows the local assessor to "recover taxes reduced by exemptions for those persons claiming them on properties other than their principal place of residence."

Cuevas says he received a notice of intent to record tax liens in 2014 on 10 Chicago properties he owns besides his residence, in the amount of $142,576.60, regarding erroneous homestead exemptions taken between 2006 and 2012.

An administrative law judge found him liable for the taxes in December, according to the complaint.

Cuevas challenges these interest and penalty charges, and the assessor's "retroactive application" of them, saying they violate uniform taxation and due process under state and federal law.

He says Cook County would previously waive its right to lien properties or delinquent taxes if the taxpayer made a timely payment of the erroneously assessed taxes.

Saying that the new law is unfair, Cuevas says it penalizes taxpayers "for not policing their own payments of taxes when the tax bills previously did not provide plaintiff and the class notice of the amount received from exemptions."

He also points to counties that the act excludes based on population and an amnesty period that applies only to those who have less than three violations. People who sold property with erroneous exemptions prior to the act's passage meanwhile are "off the hook," the complaint states.

Cuevas says the assessor "exceeded its authority" in charging penalties prior to the effective date of the statute, which "does not contain explicit language for it to apply retroactively."

The act furthermore "does not allow for easy interpretation," and "it is not fair to shift the burden of assigning the qualifications for exemptions to the layman," according to the complaint.

Cuevas is represented by Chicago attorney Larry Drury and Buffalo Grove attorney Marshal Morris.

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