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Cook County Board unanimously repeals county wheel tax

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Cook County commissioners last week unanimously voted to eliminate the so-called wheel tax for residents in unincorporated areas.

The vote on September 22 will permanently end the county’s vehicle registration fines and fees.

“Anytime we have an opportunity to cut or eliminate taxes it’s always the right thing to do for Cook County taxpayers,” said Commissioner Sean Morrison (R-17th), of Palos Park. “The wheel tax provided plenty of consternation for residents of unincorporated Cook County. Relieving them of the administrative and financial stress is a win for suburban residents.”

Sean Morrison 1

Sean Morrison

frank j. aguilar 16th district

Frank Aguilar

“This is a common sense approach to addressing inequity, eliminating a tax that is far too often punitive.  Cars are a necessity for so many people in our county to get to work, to get to community services, to receive health care, and much more,” said Commissioner Frank J. Aguilar (D-16th), of Berwyn.  “This is a regressive tax, plain and simple, one that hurts our residents more than any justification to keep it.  I applaud Commissioner Kevin Morrison for authoring this ordinance, and stand with my colleagues on the board to continue delivering relief and support for all of our residents.”

Unlike most of Cook County’s Home Rule Taxes, which are remitted to the Department of Revenue by businesses filing monthly returns, the wheel tax is remitted directly to the Department of Revenue by the residents of unincorporated areas.

Recently, numerous municipalities have repealed their own vehicle sticker program for similar reasons and more. The repeal of the county’s wheel tax will allow the Department of Revenue to redirect staff resources away from the time consuming and burdensome task of administering the tax.

The Cook County Bureau of Finance estimates that around 8,000 staff hours dedicated to administering the tax can be redirected to other services. In addition, they estimate that the revenue lost from eliminating the tax will be partially offset by savings on administrative costs and new county revenues. In terms of impact to the County’s overall budget, revenues from the wheel tax constitute less than half of a percent of the more than $8 billion budget. The lost revenue from eliminating this tax is negligible in comparison to the cost savings to individual families.

“The Cook County wheel tax is regressive and unnecessary. And it disproportionately impacts the Black and Brown residents of Cook County who can least afford to pay it,” said Board President Toni  Preckwinkle. “The resources we spend enforcing it outweigh its gains, and we’re proud that we can give the taxpayers some of their hard-earned money back.”

This ordinance is supported by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, who, in a report authored in 2021, highlighted the impact of transportation fees and fines on low-income Cook County residents.

“The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning supports action to reduce the financial burden of transportation revenues on underserved and disadvantaged residents across northeastern Illinois,” said Executive Director Erin Aleman. “These steps must be balanced with the need to avoid reducing investments in the transportation system and to improve lower-cost mobility options. We look forward to working with the County to identify ways to better utilize equitable user fees to ensure the sustainability of our regional transit system.”

The repeal ordinance shall take effect starting on June 30, 2023.

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