from Local Attorney, Michael H. Wasserman

Thursday, October 29, 2009

EZ DEC to debut soon

Cook County real estate professionals will soon need to follow new protocols and procedure in the reporting of property transfer taxes due in their client's transactions. The new EZ Dec system is said to be going live next week, and in the new year, it will become the only way to do so.

Transfer taxes are assessed against just about every real estate transaction. The State, County, and City each levy a tax based on the sales price. In 2008, the City tax was famously increased to give a new revenue stream to the CTA. At present, we file three separate forms - one to pay each transfer tax. Frankly, the process is a collosal pain. The forms each ask for a whole lot of common information, but each form is (predicatbly enough) worse than the next. The County gets all the data it needs in a 2 page form. The State form runs 4 pages. The City's 7. Data idata input is sloppy, often inaccurate. I cannot even begin to speculate how cumbersome it is for the tax revenue agents to unspool the reported sales information or monitor compliance.

The new process funnels everything to a singe web portal. According to the Illinois Department of Revenue:

  • Combines City, County and State real-property transfer forms (over 300 fields) into a cohesive online website;
  • Eliminates five real property transfer tax forms;
  • Automates tax calculations, and identifies exemptions;
  • Eliminates tens of thousands of real property transfer tax paper declarations;
  • Validates property data electronically with Cook County;
  • Enables title companies to sell, print and issue a "smart" stamp that can be placed on the deed that captures the amount of tax to be paid to each governmental body including the CTA. The new application:
  • Creates electronic files for appropriate agency data that will be distributed to each governmental body on a daily basis.
This change should certainly streamline things on the goverment side of the tranfer tax process. It should not probably cause to much inconvenience on the user side of the deal either, though I imagine that there will some rough patches as lawyers and title companies change their work flows to integrate this new procedure.

For myself, I prepare closing documents using a proprietary set of forms using HotDocs. It took me a long time to get the transfer declarations coded properly so that I could full them out automatically at the same time I prepare all the other necessary paperwork. The key benefit has always been that I need only enter data into my computer one time. Everything is produced from a single "answer file." Looks like I am going to have to enter most of that data onto the EZ Dec platform as a separate task. Bummer.

For Buyers, Sellers & Realtors at large, this is going to cause some trouble whenever a deal involves a legal Luddites who or unrepresented seller that is not "computer enabled" or one of the 70,000 or so Illinois lawyers who handles one transaction every five years or so. The rest of us are going to have clue them in early - or do the work ourselves in order to avoid delays at the closing table.