Pritzkers dodge all their taxes — not just the federal ones... Unite - HERE and Crain's Chicago Business report how Penny dodges local property taxes (and tries to hide it) while serving on the Board of Education

One of the delightful things about having ten or eleven billionaires named Pritzker in Chicago is that they are even more convoluted than a Russian novel in their permutations and machinations. One part of the family is going off pushing Kabala, while another is feuding (temporarily) about trust fund inheritances, while another is ladling out corporate school reform on behalf of Rahm Emanuel.

Chicago Board of Education member Penny Pritzker (above, during the Board's February 22, 2012 meeting) makes sure that she pays the lowest federal and local taxes, thanks to decades-old tax dodges to avoid federal taxes and local property tax appeals to dodge local ones. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.But there is one thing all Pritzkers have, almost as part of their DNA: tax dodging. Since the patriarch A. N. Pritzker set up that endless series of Bahamian trusts to dodge federal taxes back in the 1960s and 1970s, tax dodging (the "legal" kind that billionaires and millionaires can afford to do) has been a Pritzker family speciality, even when there are disagreements within the clan. Anyone who wants to read the SEC filings on behalf of the various Pritzker owners of the Hyatt Hotels can go numb reading each of those reports that dead ends in a Trust in Nassau.

But now, thanks to Unite HERE and Crain's Chicago Business, we learn that Pritzker tax dodging is also taking place with the taxes that pay for the public schools Penny Pritzker is helping oversee on behalf of Rahm Emanuel. Of course, it's not only Penny and her husband dodging local property taxes for that pile on Orchard St. a couple of blocks from Lincoln Park High, but a "Who's Who" of local Pritzkers dodging local property taxes on mansions that most Chicagoans would find suitable to house everyone on their block.

I was really glad that I maintain my subscription to "Crain's" when I read the following in this week's (February 27, 2012) print edition this morning, and equally glad that our brothers and sisters at Unite HERE are keeping watch on all things Pritzker. But someone should probably mention at the next Board of Education meeting (if Penny shows up; she was truant for one recently, although she was definitely there to vote on the "turnaround" and closing agenda on February 22) that someone who sits on the school board should be paying her fair share of school taxes. Even if she was trained by her family long before she went to Harvard and Stanford in the fine family arts of dodging taxes and adding to her already surfeited billions.

Above, Pritzker aide Beth Swanson stood by the side with Michael Milkie under the proud "Pritzker Nobls St..." sign during Rahm Emanuel's infomercial for the "Noble Network of Charter Schools" at the "Noble Street Pritzker Campus" on December 16, 2011, just before Rahm and his family left for their $20,000 vacation in South America. Swanson serves as Emanuel's liaison with CPS, and also as executive director of the "Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation," which is owned by Penny Pritzker and husband Bryan Traubert. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.CRAIN'S STORY ON PRITZKERS AVOIDING LOCAL PROPERTY TAXES:

From this week's In Other News

An appealing reason to be a Pritzker, By Shia Kapos February 27, 2012

Just as lots of Chicago homeowners do, members of the Pritzker family challenge their property tax assessments. They do it often — and with results.

According to documents from the Cook County assessor's office, political fundraiser Penny Pritzker and her husband, Bryan Traubert, an ophthalmologist and civic leader, have repeatedly appealed the tax bill on their Lincoln Park mansion.

The couple have appealed 10 times since 2006. They've been successful twice and are waiting to hear on two other appeals. So far, they've saved close to $200,000 by successfully arguing that their place — a seven-bathroom, 8,400-square-foot home on three typical city lots — was assessed at too high a value when compared with similar properties.

The public documents about the tax matters were pulled together by a labor union battling the family's Hyatt Hotels Corp.

The family isn't commenting on the information. The union says the data are proof that the Pritzkers skirt the system at the expense of education and parks programs that benefit from property tax revenue.

"When billionaires game the system, the rest of us pay the price," says Henry Tamarin, president of Unite Here Local 1.

Harry Tamarin (left) of Unite HERE released the union's study of Pritzker dodges of local property taxes in February 2012. Above, Tamarin with CTU Vice President Jess Sharkey during the March 2011 march against TIF ripoffs on Chicago's north side. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The Pritzker-Trauberts aren't the only family members who have fought their property tax bills.

Public records show Ms. Pritzker's cousins Nick Pritzker, Tom Pritzker and Gigi Pritzker Pucker all have filed to lower bills on their homes in Lincoln Park and the Gold Coast, for combined savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past eight years.

Property taxes are based on a property's assessed value, which is based on what is supposed to be a fair market value. (We can all argue about that.)

Like other property owners in Cook County, the Pritzkers, who have drawn scrutiny over the years for elaborate methods of avoiding paying taxes, have appealed their bills at every level: the assessor's office, the Cook County Board of Review and, ultimately, the state Property Tax Appeal Board.

The documents show Pritzker family members — notable for their philanthropic efforts as well as their business acumen — don't use their names in appealing their tax bills. For example, a Pritzker-Traubert request in 2010 referred only to the lot number and address of their home in requesting that the assessor "review its initial 'no change' decision."

That request and others were on the letterhead of their attorney, Thomas Tully, an expert in the byzantine property tax process. He was the Cook County assessor in the 1970s.

Not everyone in the Pritzker family has worn a path to the assessor's office. J.B. Pritzker received a nearly $300,000 bill for his recently restored mansion in the Gold Coast. He hasn't filed an appeal.

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