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Rep. Rush often late paying taxes

Beloved Community Christian Church 6430 S. Harvard. | Patrick Rehkamp/BGA

Beloved Community Christian Church, 6430 S. Harvard. | Patrick Rehkamp/BGA

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Updated: January 16, 2014 6:14AM

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., the church he founded and leads and its social service affiliate have repeatedly failed to pay their taxes on time.

Records show that this year alone:

Rush paid $21,000 in penalties, interest and delinquent property taxes on his home at 35th and Calumet. Some of the payments were five years overdue.

The Illinois Department of Revenue filed a lien in September against Rush and his wife Carolyn Rush, seeking payment of $5,757 for personal state income taxes and penalties from 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Rush is behind on paying 2011 property taxes for his Buchanan, Mich., condominium.

Beloved Community Christian Church, 6430 S. Harvard Ave., and its social service affiliate, both founded by Rush, had outstanding Internal Revenue Service liens of $161,891 for unpaid employee withholding taxes — money that funds Social Security, Medicare and other government spending.

Rush and his wife own a four-bedroom home in Bronzeville valued at $383,000 in addition to the condo in Michigan. Rush also has an apartment in Washington, D.C.

“Yes, I might owe tax. I might owe a lot of things,” Rush said in an interview at his congressional office on 79th Street. “I’m a person who has to live in two different cities on an income. So I ain’t got it like that.”

Rush is paid $174,000 a year to serve in Congress. His campaign fund regularly pays his wife consultant fees, last year amounting to $83,049, campaign finance records show. She was paid $39,000 for the first nine months of this year.

Two days after he abruptly ended an interview when asked about the taxes on his home, Rush and his wife paid $15,903 in taxes, fees and penalties owed from 2007 through 2011 on one of the three lots on which their house and garage sit, according to Cook County clerk’s office records.

Later, they paid $5,077 to settle the tax debt on another of the lots, covering 2008 through 2012, county records show.

In both cases, they were days away from losing ownership — the final court-ordered penalty for nonpayment of the delinquent taxes, Cook County court records show.

In 2009, the Rushes also came close to losing their house over unpaid taxes, records show, until they paid $7,429 in back taxes and penalties, some dating to 2005.

In Michigan, the Rushes owe $1,015 in property taxes and penalties from 2011 on their condominium and face losing the property if they don’t pay them by March 31, according to Berrien County, Mich., records.

Three years ago, the couple paid $10,513 in overdue taxes on the condo a few days after their mortgage lender threatened foreclosure, citing the tax delinquency.

In 2002, two months after Rush founded Beloved, Commonwealth Edison gave the congregation a property at 6540 S. Lowe — the site of a no-longer-used electric substation — as a gift. Rush, who is Beloved’s pastor, planned to move the church to the property, which the county assessor said was worth $75,000.

A banner on the old substation announced:

“By God’s Grace, coming soon

Beloved Community Christian Church

6540 S. Lowe

Reverend Congressman Bobby L. Rush Pastor”

But the congregation never moved in — so it never qualified for a tax exemption as a religious institution — and it didn’t pay its property taxes. The church continued to hold services in a nearby school, later moving to its current home, an English Gothic-style building on South Harvard.

The abandoned ComEd substation remains vacant. In 2006, city inspectors cited Beloved for failure to remove refuse, creating a potential rat harborage, according to a city order filed with the Cook County recorder of deeds.

In 2008, the church lost ownership over $28,000 in unpaid taxes, penalties and fees over four years. In 2010, the property’s new owner told the Cook County assessor the vacant building was “dilapidated . . . [W]e are unable to lease or sell it at the present time.”

Rush is a longtime member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. A year after ComEd donated the substation to the church, Rush supported its parent company, Exelon Corp., in its bid to acquire another power company, according to a ComEd news release that praised Rush.

Rush, an ordained minister with a master’s degree in theology, did not respond to written questions about the abandoned substation. He told reporters he wouldn’t talk about his church, saying, “I’m not going to expose the church to your questions.”

According to liens filed by the IRS with the Cook County recorder of deeds, Rush’s church and its social services arm, Beloved Community Family Services, failed to send the IRS taxes that they had withheld from employee paychecks and owes more than $161,000. That includes employer contributions for Social Security and Medicare, plus payroll and income taxes withheld from employees. The church owed $49,875 for 2006 through 2008, records show. The family services agency owed $112,016 for 2011 through 2013.

Records show that in early 2012, at a time it owed federal taxes, Beloved Community Family Services bought a $25,000 house in Englewood.

Neither Rush nor an IRS spokesman would comment on the tax debt or whether any partial payment has been made.

The congressman has said his wife, Carolyn Rush, who chairs the board of Beloved Community Family Services, has been hospitalized with serious medical issues.

Beside being pastor, Rush is president of the church and, according to his financial disclosure forms, was a director of Beloved Community Family Services through 2008.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security also filed a lien in April to enforce payment of $4,393 in unpaid unemployment taxes by Beloved Community Family Services, which works with youthful ex-offenders and at-risk young people in Englewood and provides academic enrichment programs for students.

Beloved Community Family Services also owes $849 in property taxes on the Englewood building it bought in 2012 for $25,000. The taxes were due Aug. 1.

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