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Cook rolls back county use tax on big-ticket purchases

June 21, 2013
The Cook County Board voted June 19 to cut a tax that primarily affects business purchases made outside of the county. The use tax on so-called “non-titled personal property,” which was established April 1 at 1.25 percent, was scaled back to 0.75 percent.
The tax applies to purchases made outside the county, by buyers from Cook County, on items such as office supplies and furniture.
Buyers must pay the tax when their purchase exceeds $3,500 per year. The tax does not cover real estate or vehicles.
County Board President Toni Preckwinkle acknowledged the use tax also faces a court challenge, and that was a factor in reducing the tax.
“We proposed the … tax reduction to address business community concerns, and to strengthen our legal arguments,” she said.
County Budget Director Andrea Gibson said the change will cost the county about $5 million in revenue this year, and about $14 million next year.
“Certainly the first thing that I would look at mid-year, and make a recommendation, is to see where we can scale back expenditures,” she said.
Originally designed to help Cook County-based companies from losing sales to competitors in other counties due to Cook County's sales tax, the new use tax on most purchases outside the county has riled business instead.
After taking effect in April, the first monthly returns were due May 20. Some lawyers have advised paying under protest while two lawsuits in Cook County circuit court contend that the new tax violates the U.S. constitution and state law.