Problem Solver: Property tax refund goes missing

Carl Bank was approved for 4 property tax refunds; so far, he has been able to deposit only 3

Carl Bank didn't realize he was eligible for Cook County's Senior Freeze Exemption on his property taxes until this spring.

His tax preparer asked why he hadn't applied for the exemption, which could take thousands of dollars per year off his taxes.

Bank said that he lived with his long-time domestic partner, Carol Adams, and assumed he was ineligible because their combined income was more than the county allowed, which in tax year 2010 was $55,000.

His tax preparer told him Adams' income had nothing to do with his application for the exemption, and encouraged him to fill out the paperwork for a refund.

After all, the 82-year-old Elk Grove Village resident's 2010 income, including Social Security benefits, totaled just over $25,000.

Dutifully, Bank applied for the exemption for tax years 2007 to 2010.

To his surprise and delight, the exemptions were granted. According to the county, he was due a windfall — after applying the Senior Freeze Exemption retroactively, Bank had overpaid by $8,069.33 during the four-year period.

The money was to be repaid to Bank in four checks, one for each year.

Keeping track of the checks proved difficult.

Adams said Bank remembers cashing two of the checks, for 2007 and 2008, in late June, but insisted the other two never arrived.

She said the couple went to the Cook County assessor's office and were told the payments for 2009 and 2010, totaling $4,698.92, should be on the way.

"Every time we go to the assessor's office, (an employee) says 'look, it's been approved, it's been certified, you should be getting it,'" Adams said.

The couple could find no evidence of the two checks, she said, so she wrote a letter to What's Your Problem?

"I don't know what else to do at this point," Adams said. "Someone said 'get an attorney' and I said 'goodness no.'"

The Problem Solver called Robert Benjamin, a spokesman for the Cook County treasurer's office, and asked Benjamin to track the payments.

Benjamin said all four checks were, in fact, sent to Bank in June — and three of the four checks have been cashed, including the 2010 refund check for $2,670.83.

The spokesman said the fourth check, for 2009, remains uncashed.

"He may have misplaced one," Benjamin said. "He might have thrown it away."

The Problem Solver called Adams, who visited the bank with Bank. They determined Bank had, in fact, cashed the check for 2010, but had forgotten about it.

That left only one missing check for 2009, a year in which he overpaid the county by $2,118.37.

Benjamin said his office will send Bank the paperwork to declare that check lost so it can be canceled, reissued and resent.

Adams said she will help Bank fill out the forms to get the money.

"That's what we will do," Adams said. "We have some answers now, so we can work on it."

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