Illinois Offering Use Tax Amnesty

January 27, 2011

Every state with a sales tax also has a "use" tax, a tax on the use within a state of an item upon which a sales tax has not been paid. (It appears on many state income tax forms.) Thus, states with less competitive tax systems than their neighbors seek to tax transactions occurring in other states to equalize tax burdens -- essentially a protectionist measure that seeks to undercut the benefits of competition between states on taxes, services, and other factors.

Illinois would like it very much if consumers sent in any unpaid use tax, agreeing to waive penalties for a limited time:

The amnesty program, which will run from Jan. 1 through Oct. 15, will waive all penalties and interest on payments individual taxpayers pay the state on so-called "use" taxes that went unpaid on purchases made between June 30, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2010, from Internet, catalog and any other retailers that didn't collect sales tax on those purchases.[...]

Illinois is also taking a step already taken by several other states in requiring individual state taxpayers to fill out a line in their state tax return to estimate their liability for use tax. In the Illinois 2010 state tax return form, taxpayers will have the option of either using a worksheet to estimate their use tax liability or simply pay about $3 per $10,000 of adjusted gross income. "If everyone pays their $3 per $10,000, it's a lot of money for the state," the spokeswoman says.

Tax data publisher CCH confirms that this is the first use tax amnesty a state has offered. Illinois really wants to get cash in the door any way it can! But maybe Illinois should focus on making its tax system more attractive to business rather than fleecing residents who go out of state to make their purchases.

More on Illinois here.

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