Can Cook County make its residents pay taxes on things they buy elsewhere?
This week an Illinois appellate court said no, upholding a lower-court decision striking down the county’s “Non-Titled Personal Property Use Tax,” which charged an extra tax on Cook County residents who bought goods worth more than $3,500 outside of the county.
In an opinion by Judge Mathias Delort, the court affirmed a previous ruling that the tax is illegal under the state’s counties code, which forbids home-rule counties from imposing ”a use tax based on the selling or purchase price of said tangible personal property.”
According to statements by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s office, however, the county hasn’t ruled out trying to appeal the decision to the Illinois Supreme Court. But after two courts have ruled the tax illegal – based on a state law that clearly states counties can’t do this sort of thing – is it in the best interest of Cook County taxpayers to waste more money and time on a losing battle? Especially when a victory for the county would only allow it to pick its residents’ pockets a little more?
The county may be in the midst of a budget crisis, but that doesn’t trump residents’ right to buy goods or services wherever they please.
Cook County residents already pay some of the highest sales tax rates in the country. If county government has a problem with people going out-of-county to buy things at a lower rate, a better response would be to lower its sales tax. That would make Cook County a more attractive place for businesses to start and thrive, and would bring commerce back within its borders.