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American Airlines should pay taxes

Saturday, March 22, 2014
Chicago Tribune
by Larry Suffredin

Municipalities and other local governments, including Cook County, collect sales taxes to pay for the services they provide to the individuals and companies that live and do business in their communities. That’s the purpose of sales tax collection. It’s also the law for all to pay their fair share of taxes.

But despite their operations at O’Hare International Airport, American Airlines has sidestepped paying sales taxes to Chicago, Cook County and the Regional Transportation Authority by establishing small, rarely occupied offices in the rural community of Sycamore, Ill. in DeKalb County.

The airline employs this controversial scheme to funnel its jet fuel purchases in an effort to substantially reduce their sales tax rates. This action adversely affects all.

Earlier this month, the RTA filed a lawsuit to force American to comply with Illinois law and stop depriving Chicago and suburban municipalities of more than $20 million in annual revenues owed to local taxing districts. Sales tax dollars fund the majority of the operating budgets of our public transit agencies that include CTA, Metra and Pace. The RTA has been successfulsimilar lawsuits and will collect millions of dollars for taxpayers.

Like you and me, the world’s largest airline has a responsibility to pay the taxes it incurs to do business in our region — revenue that is used to maintain the public infrastructure, like roads, bridges and sidewalks, and support mass transit, like buses and trains. Together, this very framework is what enables millions of American’s passengers and employees get to and from O’Hare.

For years, these sham arrangements in Sycamore, located 50 miles away DeKalb County, have cost our municipalities and other units of government in the six-county RTA region hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue while the airlines got a free ride.

It is time for American to stop gaming the system, play by the rules and pay its fair of taxes to the proper communities.

— Larry Suffredin, Cook County Commissioner, 13th District



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