BYLINE: By Hal Dardick, Tribune reporter
Tax preparers would have to disclose all of their fees and provide a “consumer bill of rights” under an ordinance the Chicago City Council’s Budget Committee backed Tuesday.
The ordinance takes aim at “unscrupulous tax preparers” who drive income-tax filers to take out refund anticipation loans that carry exorbitant interest rates, said Rosemary Krimbel, commissioner of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.
Krimbel said her department is working with the Illinois attorney general’s office to prepare a class-action civil lawsuit against some tax preparers violating industry regulations — a development applauded by Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th.
“They are targeting low-income communities,” Beale said. “So once again, they are targeting communities that are suffering the most.”
The goal of the ordinance is to help prevent consumers from getting burned in the first place and let them know where to turn if they believe they have been wronged, Krimbel said.
Under the ordinance, for-profit tax preparers would have to fully disclose all fees, tell customers they do not have to take refund anticipation loans or checks, and let them know how to file complaints with the city. Violations would carry fines of $250 to $750.
The measure was proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and is expected to win routine approval Wednesday from the full council.
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