CHICAGO — Tanya Triche Dawood, general counsel for the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA), frets that the new, penny-per-ounce sweetened beverage tax in Cook County couldn’t have come at a worse time.
“Owners are concerned customers will take to shopping elsewhere,” Dawood told the Cook County Record. “Unlike other taxes, prices in this case will increase dramatically and come at a time when all consumers are seeking the best values possible.”
Dawood said she already knows restaurants that have stopped selling fountain drinks from behind the counter and others that have ceased offering free refills since the tax officially went into effect on August 2.
“Many of them can’t afford to eat this tax,” she said. “And in a lot instances, the process of trying to figure out how to collect on the new tax just becomes too complicated.”
IRMA appealed a lower court’s July 28 ruling to shoot down its request to stop the tax from taking effect, but that appeal has also been denied.
Dawood said retailers are expected to solve the added riddle of how they are suppose to collect the tax when customers make purchases with cards issued under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which are exempted by federal rules from sales and other local taxes.
“Retailers are being left to figure out how to get reimbursed, and it will cost them even more money as they’re forced to purchase new software to track purchases,” she said. “It’s a lot of money to have to spend just to be able to collect.”
While county officials have insisted that their primary motivation for enacting the tax is improving public health, several media outlets have reported the new legislation will raise as much as $200 million in added annual revenue.