Cook County in Illinois, home to Chicago, has decided that its soda tax will not apply to food stamps.

Purchases made with food stamps cannot have state and local taxes tacked onto them, according to federal law. Cook county tried to bypass that law, but none of the options officials used took off. So this means that the 827,000 people in Cook County who have food stamps will not have to pay the tax.

This is the second reversal of the tax, which has caused massive confusion as the bankrupt county and state have tried everything to raise revenue.

So here is what happened. Officials at first hoped that retailers would fold the tax “into the selling price of the products, like overhead costs, instead of tacking it on at checkout.”

Illinois’s Department of Revenue stopped that dream when it determined “that approach would constitute an ‘overcollection’ because the higher selling price would then be subject to sales tax.”

Cook County had to change course and decided to use point of sale, which means “it will appear as a separate line item on the receipt.”

As mentioned above, state and local taxes cannot go towards purchases made with food stamps.

Well, in April, the Department of Agriculture stated that the soda tax “could be applied to SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] purchases so long as it wasn’t imposed at the point of sale.”

Kind of puts Cook County in a bind, which forced them to change the law…again.

From The Chicago Tribune:

“The coalition does not oppose the (SNAP) waiver, but there is certainly confusion and uncertainty on how to implement the tax,” said David Goldenberg, spokesman for the Can the Tax Coalition, a group funded by the American Beverage Association, the industry trade group that represents companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

Likewise, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce described the rollout of the tax as “a mess” and called on the county to delay implementation until Jan. 1.

Ivan Samstein, Cook County’s chief financial officer, said the changes to the implementation of the tax have been a product of working with various state and federal regulatory agencies, as well as collecting input from people and businesses that will be affected by the tax.

“Every affected industry is always in opposition to new taxes. We’re not surprised we’re seeing vocal opposition from industry groups. That’s the nature of the way things work in a democratic society,” Samstein said.

Officials hoped the tax would raise $223.8 million in a year, but Sammstein cannot even provide details how the loss of 827,000 will affect the revenue.

Overall, the law is not fair. First off, officials only implemented this law as a way to raise revenue instead of cutting the budget. They didn’t even do it for health reasons.

Secondly, if the law cannot be applied to everyone then why bother having it?


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