Evanston city staff will ask aldermen Monday to seek voter approval to raise the city’s real estate transfer tax by 40 percent.

Under the proposal the tax rate would increase from $5 per $1,000 of a property’s value to $7 per $1,000.

The staff memo suggests reconfiguring the tax so that responsibility for the tax payment would be split evenly between the buyer and seller of the property. Currently the seller is required to pay the full tax.

The staff memo claims, “Reducing the tax amount that the seller has to pay increases the likelihood of the tax ultimately being approved by the voters.”

However that would be true only if voters fail to understand that the higher tax still reduces the value of the seller’s property by the same amount — regardless of who’s cutting checks to the city.

A list maintained by the Illinois Association of Realtors indicates that 69 Illinois municipalities impose a real estate transfer tax.

Only eight of them have a tax rate higher than Evanston’s current rate. Sixteen charge the same rate as Evanston. The other 44 have lower rates — including a few that charge just a flat fee of $10 to $50 per property.

Evanston voters defeated a real estate transfer tax hike by a 52 to 48 percent margin in the 2006 general election and by 58 to 42 percent margin in the 2008 presidential primary election.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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