Tax Law

Choppy Waters: Illinois Appellate Court Allows Taxpayer’s Late Protest Because of Misleading Department of Revenue Conduct

On May 22, 2019, the Illinois Appellate Court held that the late filing of a boat tour business’ Amusement Tax protest was excusable. The Cook County Department of Revenue had violated the taxpayer’s procedural due process rights by “affirmatively misleading” it on the proper filing deadline. Cook County law requires that taxpayers protest assessments within 20 days from the mailing of the assessment. The auditor erroneously informed the taxpayer, by e-mail, that the protest was due on October 1, 2014, 20 days after the taxpayer’s receipt of the assessment. Relying on the auditor’s advice, the taxpayer filed its protest on that date, two days after the actual deadline. On review, the court held that the unambiguous ordinance began the 20-day window for the taxpayer to protest its assessment on the date the Department mailed the assessment. However, the court determined that the auditor’s incorrect advice, along with confusing documents from the Department, misled the taxpayer that the date of the assessment’s receipt was the trigger for the 20-day deadline. Thus, the court concluded that: (1) the Department violated the taxpayer’s procedural due process rights, and (2) the proper remedy was to deem the protest timely filed and address the merits. Mercury Sightseeing Boats, Inc. v. County of Cook, Nos. 16 CH 10775, 16 L 50566 (Ill. App. Ct. May 22, 2019).