Off Topic: Illinois Sales Tax Hike on Candy

It’s not very often I go off topic in this blog, but I thought I would in this case because I haven’t seen this reported anywhere else:

Red Alert: The sales tax rate is going up on candy!

Chicago was once the candy-making capitol of the Midwest.  Though Brachs is long gone, and Fannie May is made in Ohio now, people who live here still have a sweet tooth.  Think about the number of candy stores, confectioners, manufacturers, cupcake joints, and other sweeteries in just the Loop and Near North areas.  I can think of a dozen off the top of my head, and more are coming (new cupcake joint will arrive at Block 37 / 108 North State Street next month).

So today (because in addition to this blog, there is a retail arm of the Artefaqs Corporation empire) I was notified by the Illinois Department of Revenue of yet another sales tax change.  Starting September 1, 2009 the following items will no longer be taxed at the “low” rate applied to food:

  • Chocolate bars
  • Yogurt or chocolate covered fruit or nuts
  • Honey coated nuts
  • Caramel popcorn
  • Lollipops
  • Snack mixes containing yogurt or chocolate
  • Breath mints
  • Gum

Instead, they will be taxed at the “high” rate, which means at least 10.25% in Chicago.  But if the item you choose to slake your sweet tooth contains flour, or is all natural, then it goes back into the food category, and thus the “low” tax rate:

  • Chocolate covered cookies
  • Yogurt covered pretzels
  • Plain dried fruits
  • Nuts with no added sweeteners
  • Any candy that contains flour

Reminds me of when I lived in New Jersey, and popcorn was taxed as a snack, but the unpopped kernels were taxed as food.

The state of Illinois has also changed its definition of “soft drink” so that more items can be taxed at the “high” rate, or in Chicago — the “super-high” rate.  A “soft drink” is now:

“…any non-alcoholic beverage containing natural or artifical sweeteners.  This includes, but is not limited to soda, sport or energy drinks, sweetened tea, waters containing natural or artificial sweeteners, beverages containing 50% or less fruit or vegetable juice, and all other preparations commonly known as soft drinks.”

Of course, Chicago has its own soft drink tax, plus a bottle tax, so when you down a Vitamin Water from Jewel after September 1 it will cost you 13.25% in tax, plus an extra 5 cents for the bottle.  For those of you keeping score at home, two years ago this month it was possible to buy a 20 ounce bottle of Vitamin Water in Chicago for 99 cents.  This week I’ve seen it as high as $1.89 a bottle at Potash.  When this new tax goes into effect, say hello to $2.00 Vitamin Water.

As an aside, the state is also raising the sales tax on personal hygiene products, including soap, shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, and sunscreen.  Wouldn’t want Illinoians to smell too good, or be too healthy.

For those of you who want to look all this up, the source is the FY 2010-01 July 2009 Illinois Department of Revenue Informational Bulletin.  I don’t know if it’s online or not, since my copy came through the mail in dead tree form.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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