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Illinois: Will Proposed Violence Tax Get Shot Down?


A proposed violence tax on guns and ammunition is being discussed in Cook County, Illinois, spearheaded by County President Toni Preckwinkle. The reasoning behind the tax is threefold: to help reduce a projected $115 million gap in the budget, to help curb the county's escalating violence, and to help cover some of the costs of that violence. 

On the table is a 5 cent tax on rounds of ammunition and a $25 tax on firearms. In her 2013 Budget Address, President Preckwinkle announced:

"The violence in Cook County is devastating and the wide availability of ammunition only exacerbates the problem. Twenty-nine percent of the illegal guns used in crimes and recovered by the Chicago Police Department were purchased legal in Cook County. This violence has a real impact on the Cook County Health and Hospital System. Acute trauma care for a shooting victim costs $52,000 on average and 70% of shooting victims have no insurance. And 670 shooting victims were treated last year in our health system at an enormous cost."

The Chicago Sun reports that the city's murder rate is up 25% over last year, and the Cook County Jail is nearing capacity. In addition to the impact of lives, the violence costs money: money to staff the courts, incarcerate criminals, and care for victims.

With the proposed violence tax, Preckwinkle is targeting areas in need of revenue and taxing what she holds responsible for that need.

Furthermore, Preckwinkle points out that '[t]his year alone, we have reduced taxes for everyone by twice as much as we have selectively raised them."

Still, since it was announced, the proposed violence tax has taken a few shots. A National Rifle Association lobbyist referred to the tax as "an unfair tax on a constitutional right that will hurt the poor." In an interview with the Chicago Sun, the lobbyist pointed out Chicago's "gun violence problem, … high high school drop-out rate, … drug problem, … [and] gang problem." He thinks it is unfair "to make legal gun owners, guys like me, the scapegoat."

Other measures proposed in the 2013 budget are sure to raise eyebrows, if not ire. Preckwinkle would like to increase the cigarette tax by $1, and add a gambling machine tax. The Cook County President underscores that they seek to incrementally increase "the price on items like cigarettes, guns and gambling machines in order to continue to lower the price on milk, toothpaste, and other everyday necessities."

In the state of Illinois, guns and ammunition are subject to local sales tax rates. In addition, there is a federal excise tax on guns and ammunition that is used to fund conservation projects. Tennesse has an ammunition tax.

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Sales tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Gail Cole
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail began researching and writing about sales tax in 2012 and has been fascinated with it ever since. She has a penchant for uncovering unusual tax facts, and endeavors to make complex sales tax laws more digestible for both experts and laypeople.