Independent Tax Tribunal begins taking cases

Jan 2, 2014

Illinois taxpayers have a new way to protest disputes about how much they owe in taxes.  The state's Independent Tax Tribunal will begin taking cases Tuesday, January 2nd, though as IPR'S Amanda Vinicky reports, it's not without some controversy. 

The idea behind the Independent Tax Tribunal is summed up in its name. Instead of going through the Illinois Department of Revenue to appeal a tax decision made by the Department of Revenue, taxpayers will have the option of appealing to an independent judge. 

It's something business groups, like the state Taxpayers Federation, had long lobbied for. And while it was slow to getting off the ground for various reasons, the tribunal is finally open for business, with a man named James Conway at the helm. 

In September, Gov. Pat Quinn appointed Conway as the tribunal's Chief Administrative Law Judge. Head of the Taxpayer's Federation Carol Portman says from what she can tell, Conway has done a good job on the procedural end. But she says he lacks a key qualification.

"He has no state tax professional experience."

One of the requirements in the law establishing the tribunal.  According to Conway's resume, he had worked for the U.S. Attorney's Office since 1984, and dealt with criminal tax issues. But Portman says there's a big difference between federal tax law, and Illinois' tax code. 

"There are a lot of twists and turns and nuances in the state area that you don't see as a federal practitioner."

The Senate will need to vote to confirm Conway, but that could take months.  In the meantime, Portman says she'll see how it goes. Conway declined to comment.