CHICAGO – The Cook County Board of Commissioners approved a package of Home Rule Tax Ordinance reforms earlier this month that the board said is aimed at providing individuals and businesses with a simplified process while helping the county's Revenue Department more efficiently collect taxes, as well.

A release from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said nine ordinance amendments clarify existing law, promote fair and equitable enforcement, strengthen compliance efforts, and increase convenience for taxpayers. The proposed amendment changes will not result in any increased tax rates.

In developing the amendments, which aim to clarify and standardize compliance, collection and payment information presented in sections of Home Rule Tax Ordinance, the county said it reached out to various business and industry groups. The amendments outline the responsibilities for paying taxes to the county, while updating definitions and recognizing new business practices.

Under the amended ordinance, tax return and payment due dates will be the 20th day of the month the tax return is due; motor vehicle dealers will no longer have to file annual information returns when monthly returns are already submitted; tobacco dealers may redeem confiscated tobacco products and consumable products, if applicable taxes have been paid; and valet parking operators will be required to pay parking taxes, but can take a credit for any tax paid by a lot operator under a contract between the valet operator and lot operator. 

“These changes are an important step to making our Department of Revenue operations more efficient and effective,” Frank Shuftan, chief spokesman for the county board president, told the Cook County Record. “By making these changes we are helping ensure fair and equitable enforcement while also making it easier to comply and remit taxes. Those businesses that paid their taxes properly in the past will be on a more level playing field with those who did not remit consistently in the past.”

Shuftan said the taxes affected by the change specifically include the alcoholic beverages tax, amusement tax, gambling machine tax, parking lot and garage operations tax, gasoline and diesel fuel tax, new motor vehicle and trailer tax, tobacco tax and use tax.

“The last comprehensive review of Cook County’s Home Rule Tax ordinances was in 2011,” Shuftan said. “Periodic review of ordinances assures they reflect best industry practices, reflect current law and allow for maximized enforcement efforts.”

Shuftan said examples of how the changes make paying taxes less confusing include the reduction in duplicative paperwork for motor vehicle dealers who will no longer need to file annual information returns when monthly returns are already being submitted.

“Additionally, the penalty section on some ordinances has been made clearer, and all ordinances refer to the statute of limitations section of the Uniform Penalties, Interest and Procedures Ordinance, so there is no confusion on how long records should be kept,” Shuftan said.

Shuftan said the reforms are ultimately designed to enhance compliance and revenue by clarifying and standardizing the affected ordinances.

“These changes provide updated definitions, recognize new business practices, clarify vague language, adapt to new technological advancements and close loopholes of application,” Shuftan said.

For example, Shuftan said retailers who purchased untaxed tobacco products from unregistered wholesalers were required to pay the tax when they sold the product. However, the county found that taxes often were never being paid by many of the retailers. As a result, the amendment requires that the tax be paid when the retailers first acquire the product, allowing the county to better track that taxes were paid and issue violation notices, if necessary.

Shuftan said the ordinance changes took effect immediately, “but most individuals will not notice any change in their purchase price.”

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