Alvarez v Pappas (IL)

2008 Ill. LEXIS 315 (Ill 2008), reh'g den.

The owners sued the Cook County Treasurer and Collector (county) for return of duplicate payments of taxes. The county filed a motion for summary judgment, citing Section 20-175 of the Property Tax Code, which requires a petition to be filed for refund of overpaid taxes within five years from the date the right to a refund arises. The trial court granted the motion and the appellate court affirmed.

Holding: Affirmed. The voluntarily paid taxes doctrine states that overpaid taxes can be recovered only under statutory authorization. Section 20-175 is such a statute. The owners argued that the payments were not "tax payments" and therefore were not subject to the statute's 5-year claim limit, nor the voluntarily paid taxes doctrine. The court disagreed with this argument, because the taxes were levied and the owners believed that they were paying taxes at the time of payment. For those reasons, the owners' attempts to categorize their payments in any other matter failed.

Finally, the owners argued that Section 20-175 only reaches payments for improperly assessed taxes and, because these taxes were not improperly assessed, that section does not apply. The court found the plain language of the statute to be ambiguous on this point and reviewed the legislative history to clarify the statute. The legislative history supported the county's assertion that the statute was an attempt to ameliorate the harsh effects of the voluntarily paid taxes doctrine and limiting it to improperly assessed taxes would greatly frustrate this purpose. The statute applies to all overpayments including the plaintiffs' overpayments and therefore the plaintiffs' claims for refunds were untimely.

Opinion Year: 
By: ATG Underwriting Department | Posted on: Tue, 10/07/2008 - 6:20pm