Pappas, Arab Chamber get $60,000 more in tax refunds for Arab Americans
Nearly $360,000 in property tax overpayments have been identified as qualifying for refunds under a workshop program launched by Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas in the Arab American community coordinated with the American Arab Chamber of Commerce.
The American Arab Chamber of Commerce on Friday working with Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, helped Arab American property owners to save nearly $60,000 in refunds at a tax analysis workshop hosted on Friday Oct. 22, 2021 at SANAD, 3302 W. 63rd Street in Chicago.
Pappas has launched a Cook Countywide campaign to help homeowners who overpaid their taxes over the years to collect refunds. The Treasurer is working with many community organizations to outreach to the entire county and is also hosting refund events with the Arab American community through a partnership with th American Arab Chamber of Commerce.
In the past two months, at events hosted with the Arab Chamber, Pappas has helped Arab Americans file paperwork to collect more than $300,000 in overpaid property taxes. Refunds identified on Friday Oct. 22 total nearly $60,000 bringing the total refunded to Arab Americans to about $360,000. Nijem noted that the final refund estimates from the first two events increased dramatically as they finalized the refund totals.
“We are very proud of the work that we are doing with Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas to not only help our community but to help homeowners in every community,” said Chamber President Hassan Nijem who helped coordinate the SANAD refund workshop event.
“Treasurer Maria Pappas cares about the taxpayers and wants to ensure that they are treated fairly. She has spent her evenings and weekends working with our community and others to ensure that property taxpayers who have overpaid their taxes get the money refunded.”
Last September, Pappas announced that almost 11,500 property owners who overpaid their First Installment taxes will automatically get back $25.4 million in refunds this month, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas said Wednesday Sept. 29, 2021.
Pappas launched the automatic refund program in July 2018. Since then, 121,000 property owners have received about $82 million in refunds without having to fill out an application. But to ensure that all overpayments are identified, Pappas began an outreach campaign to help communities check their county records to determine if they have indeed made overpayments in property tax payments that can be returned.
During two events hosted with the American Arab Chamber of Commerce in August and September, Pappas helped Arab American recover nearly $200,000 in property tax overpayments.
The overpayments are the result of individuals who pay their taxes more than once, or that failed to claim full deductions on their properties, or who inadvertently overpaid through their bank or financial institutions.
“About $40 million of the overpayments are the result of property owners not claiming various exemptions to which they are entitled under Illinois law. Those ‘missed’ exemptions can be applied retroactively for this year’s taxes and for the previous three years,” Pappas explained.
“As of this date, Pappas has helped Arab American homeowners save now nearly $160,000 in overpayments that will be immediately refunded to them reducing the tax burden at a time of the coronavirus pandemic when everyone can use more help,” said Nijem, who was named by Pappas as an Honorary Deputy Treasurer for his dedication to helping the community.
Pappas and the American Arab Chamber of Commerce hosted a refund workshop at the Islamic Community Center of Illinois on Sept. 17 and identified $39,000 that qualified for refunds to ICCI members. On Sept. 28, more than $160,000 was identified as overpayments during workshops held at several locations including at the Orland Park Prayer Center.
The Chamber has been active during the past two years defending the rights of Arab American and Muslim American owned businesses including last year saving from closure 22 Hookah lounges in Chicago, and working to force Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot from discriminating and targeting Arab and Asian owned businesses for closure. So far, the two campaigns have helped save more than 600 jobs in Chicago and the suburbs. After the Chamber hosted a press conference on Sept. 13 to protest Lightfoot’s discriminatory closures of Arab owned stores in Chicago, the city reversed its policy and stopped closing stores when issuing code violations.
“It’s not hard to do what is right, especially when you work with people who care about our community and with government officials like Maria Pappas who is so open, so fair and so determined to ensure that every citizen in Cook County receives their full benefits and rights,” Nijem said.
Activist Ray Hanania praised Pappas calling her Cook County’s most responsive and caring public servant and applauded the American Arab Chamber of Commerce as working to refocus the community from divisive politics to unified empowerment.
“Hassan Nijem has proven that he is one of the Arab American community’s most effective leaders. Working behind the scenes and without collecting donations and contributions that often disappear as other organizations do, Hassan and the American Arab Chamber are actually making the needs of the community the number one priority,” said Hanania, an Arab American journalist and media consultant.
“For the first time, Arab Americans have an organization that makes the people, not the so-called leaders, the priority. Hassan is working to help the community not to build himself up. What he has done is amazing and it has had a definite impact in helping the community.”
Nijem said the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview will host a tax refund event on Nov. 5.
“The November 5th event is expected to bring even more attendees,” Nijem said. “It will be our biggest event. We hope to save the community millions of dollars as a result.”
Nijem said that the total refunds will continue to increase as the program information spreads. Individuals can get more information on Treasurer Pappas at www.CookCountyTreasurer.com.
For more information on the American Arab Chamber of Commerce visit www.AACCUSA.org.