Cook County’s Soda Tax Tiff Moves to Appellate Court

Daily Tax Report: State provides authoritative coverage of state and local tax developments across the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, tracking legislative and regulatory updates,...

By Michael J. Bologna

Chicago area grocers are escalating their assault on Cook County’s soda tax.

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) appealed Aug. 1 a recent circuit court ruling that the county’s penny-per-ounce levy on all sweetened beverages is constitutional ( Ill. Retail Merch. Ass’n v. Cook Cty. Dep’t of Revenue , Ill. App. Ct., No. 20178 L 050596, notice of appeal filed 8/1/17 ).

IRMA’s appeal arises from Cook County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Kubasiak’s July 28 ruling that dismissed the merchants’ challenge to the sweetened beverage tax. IRMA said the appeal questions whether Kubasiak applied the correct legal standard when he granted Cook County’s motion to dismiss.

“We have filed a notice to appeal the decision on the sweetened beverage tax to protect retailers and consumers against this tax whose rules and regulations have continuously evolved throughout this process,” said Rob Karr, president and CEO of IRMA.

IRMA’s original lawsuit, filed in June, asserts Cook County’s ordinance creates tax classifications without substantial differences in violation of the uniformity clause of the Illinois Constitution. In addition, the lawsuit contends the ordinance is unconstitutionally vague.

‘No Real Surprise’

The appeal comes just as Cook County merchants began charging the tax on consumer purchases of sweetened beverages—Aug. 2 was the first official date for collections. Cook County has projected the tax ordinance will scoop $200 million into county coffers per year.

Frank Shuftan, a spokesman for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, said the appeal was expected.

“We have always anticipated a lengthy legal battle so this comes as no real surprise,” Shuftan told Bloomberg BNA in an Aug 2. email. “We will continue to vigorously defend the ordinance and expect to prevail, as we did in the initial round of hearings.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael J. Bologna in Chicago at mbologna@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jennifer McLoughlin at jmcloughlin@bna.com

For More Information

Text of the notice of appeal is at http://src.bna.com/rkC.

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