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Cook County Board votes to lower business use tax

Thursday, June 20, 2013
Chicago Tribune
by John Byrne

Cook County commissioners voted Wednesday to lower the tax on certain big-ticket items purchased outside the county, a step that will not end lawsuits challenging the legality of the tax.

The board voted to reduce the tax from 1.25 percent of the value of items other than real estate or vehicles to 0.75 percent of the value, if those items are bought by purchasers inside Cook County from locations outside the county. The tax only applies to goods with a cost of $3,500 or more, and is aimed almost entirely at businesses.

J. Thomas Johnson, president emeritus of the Taxpayers' Federation of Illinois, said while reducing the tax rate will save it from violating federal laws, the use tax continues to run afoul of state laws that prohibit counties from imposing such taxes on personal property.

Johnson said the county would need to get state lawmakers to change laws on county taxation in order to make the use tax legal.

The county has already collected $1.1 million through the use tax since it took effect April 1, according to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle's administration.

Two lawsuits that have been filed in Cook County Circuit Court challenging the validity of the use tax will continue despite the county board's action Wednesday, according to attorneys for the firms Reed Smith LLP and Horwood, Marcus & Berk, which filed the suits.

Commissioner Tim Schneider, R-Streamwood, was the only member to vote against the change.

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