A major part of a $1.2 billion multi-pronged state tax relief program will be disbursed to 6 million Illinois taxpayers starting Monday through the next six to eight weeks.
That’s a time period that coincides with the campaigning and early voting leading up to the Nov. 2 election.
Comptroller Susana Mendoza said starting Monday she will begin issuing checks to qualifying Illinois residents for income and property tax rebates that could together be worth as much as $600 for joint-filers with three dependents.
“Getting it all completed as soon as possible is my primary goal,” Mendoza said. “My office will be working diligently to get these into the hands of taxpayers. After all, it’s your money.”
The amount you’ll get back depends on factors such as income, family size and home value.
Individuals who filed income taxes as an Illinois resident in 2021 are eligible for the income tax rebate, permitting they have an adjusted gross income of less than $200,000 (double if filed jointly). The rebate is $50 a person; the amount is also double for joint filers. There’s also a $100 rebate each for up to three dependents.
“Starting now and in the coming weeks, a person in Illinois can walk up their mailbox thinking, ‘I’m just going to find another bill that needs to be paid’ but instead they’ll find a postcard sent from the state of Illinois telling them that they have money on the way,” Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton said.
You’ll get the money as a check if you filed your taxes on paper. It will be an automatic deposit if you filed electronically, in which case, the director of the department of revenues says you should still get a postcard in the mail, telling you what to expect.
“Think about if you received money all of a sudden in your account that you didn’t know was coming. You’d say ‘Wait a minute, something’s going on here.’ So we wanted to alert taxpayers that are getting a direct deposit what that’s for,” said Illinois Department of Revenue Director David Harris. “As for the paper checks, there’s a notification on the paper check that it is due to the rebates.”
If you're a homeowner, that check may be padded up to $300 more.
The property tax rebate will go to those with incomes up to a half million for joint filers or $250,000 for those filing as a single person on their 2021 taxes. It will be worth the same as a household’s current property tax credit, essentially doubling it, to up to $300.
The $1.8 Illinois Family Relief Plan also included a sales tax holiday on school supplies in August; the 1% sales tax on groceries is waived through June; drivers got a couple cents break per gallon of gas starting in June due to a delay in a gas tax increase that will take effect in January. It’s a headline-making number that Gov. J.B. Pritzker has often touted in ads for his re-election campaign.
Pritzker first introduced offering tax relief along these lines in his February budget address.
Political scientist Kent Redfield has spent decades studying Illinois politics and campaigns. He said there’s an argument to be made that the rebate money would be better used on something that would make a long-term dent, like putting more toward pension debt.
But Redfield said Pritzker is making a political decision to use the money to do something positive for families and homeowners.
“It is no accident that this is taking place now. It is a one-time check that is taking place before an election. In politics, you can do good things and you can help out your re-election at the same time, and that’s clearly what’s going on here,” Redfield said.
The checks will be arriving now through the next six to eight weeks, meaning voters will be receiving them just before early voting begins at the end of this month through the election in early November.
Asked about the timing, Pritzker said that with supply chain issues, Illinois just received the paper to issue the checks, and that the state also needed to wait to accumulate $1.2 billion in the bank.
But Republicans say the program could essentially be listed as an expense for Pritzker's campaign.
Still, GOP legislators voted for it.
State Sen. Don DeWitte, a Republican from St. Charles, pushed for more aggressive, permanent tax relief, but they were ignored.
Still he said something is better than nothing.
“We were not even invited to the table when it came to 2023 budget conversations and I think the end result that you have here today is temporary tax relief, pandering to the voters, another election-year gimmick that Democrats have become known for,” DeWitte said.
Democrats say Illinois can afford the one-time expense thanks to their prudent fiscal management, while Republicans say it’s thanks to the $18 billion infusion of federal COVID cash.
Redfield's take is “if we were in really, really great shape then this would be a permanent program. It would be a reoccurring thing that you would figure out how much you were going to get back every year. We’re certainly not taking that step. And so there’s no question that Illinois’ finances are better, but they are precarious.”
For more information about the rebate program, visit the department's FAQ page.
Note: This story was updated to correct how many Illinois residents will receive the rebates.
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