Cook County property office streamlines taxing workflow
- By Paul McCloskey
- Dec 11, 2015
Faced with growing service demands and a crush of paperwork, Cook County, Ill., has turned to a web-based real property tax handling application that will cut down on some 78,000 paper documents filed with the county every month.
The system, called MyDec, is an online application the Illinois Department of Revenue developed with Xerox Corp. that enables tax attorneys and real-estate offices to electronically file real property transfer tax records, electronic stamps and other approvals administered by a county recorder’s office. Cook County and the city of Chicago are part of a pilot program in which users can submit, accept, verify and close tax declarations through MyDec. After the initial rollout, all counties in Illinois will be eligible to participate in the MyDec program.
Gains in transaction speed while improving document security and accuracy are key dividends of the new system, according to property tax officials.
“As the second most populated county in the U.S., we have a mandate to deliver to our residents a faster, easier and less expensive way to work with county government,” Karen A. Yarbrough, the county’s recorder of deeds, said in announcing the service.
The new online system streamlines document workflow and helps the county catch errors as they happen and avoid corrections after the fact. Using MyDec, staff is able to review and verify tax declarations, print real estate transfer tax stamps and run reports on all the transactions.
Until now, the county’s property tax transactions were manually processed by county recorders. The core document involved -- the real property tax declaration --- must be filed for every real estate transaction approved in the state. "It’s essentially a worksheet, a legal document where you report to the government how much the transaction was, what you might owe or if you are an exempt entity,” said John Mirkovic, deputy recorder for the Cook County Recorder of Deeds.
In the all-paper era, property tax forms had to be screened and checked manually. “They would come with the documents, and we would be required to inspect them and make sure they were filled out,” Mirkovic said. “That document would be recorded and go to our indexing department where someone would manually look at the document and index anywhere between 10 to 15 fields.”
In 2014, an Illinois state law expanded the office’s document authentication options by allowing the addition of an electronic “indicia” or stamp to the document to confirm that taxes were paid. Mirkovic called the move “an important step in allowing us to use the MyDec system to effectuate online recording of deeds.”
The change spurred further efforts by Cook County and Xerox to integrate the firm’s electronic document recording technology with the county’s MyDec platform.
“The state law is probably the biggest technological innovation [the recorder’s office] has made in 10 years,” Mirkovic said. “We have spent quite a bit of time to get these systems to talk to each other and the reason for that is that it verifies these transfers taxes in a way that is very secure.”
In the end, the effort also saved time and money, said project managers. “From a development standpoint, being first always takes a little longer because you’ve got to work through the concerns and development issues that arise,” said Matthew Armstrong, Xerox senior account executive for public sector.
“Our motto at the Recorder’s Office is ‘accuracy, efficiency and advocacy,’” Mirkovic said. “This project really touched on all of those parts; it’s going to make the public record more accurate and the service we deliver more efficient.”
Paul McCloskey is senior editor of GCN. A former editor-in-chief of both GCN and FCW, McCloskey was part of Federal Computer Week's founding editorial staff.