12 Things You Need to Know About Cook County’s New Beverage Tax

13 photos
1/13
Getty Images
2/13
Getty Images
The new tax covers any drink sweetened with sugar or a substitute like aspartame, including carbonated sodas, plus sports and energy drinks. Iced tea, pre-made sweetened coffee, flavored water and lemonade fall into that category as well. Fruit drinks will also be taxed, though 100 percent fruit juice is exempt. The tax will also apply to dietary supplements and beverages like protein shakes, unless they are for medical use or meet certain nutritional guidelines.
3/13
Getty Images
The tax will be a penny per ounce, which translates into 12 cents for each can of soda. A two-liter bottle will be taxed an additional 67 cents, and a gallon will set you back an extra $1.28.
4/13
Getty Images
The tax will not apply to 100% natural fruit or vegetable juice, or juice concentrates. Unsweetened drinks will not be taxed, even if you ask for sugar to be added (so you can still get Splenda in your Starbucks without paying more). Coffee creamers don’t count either, nor do syrups added to made-to-order coffee drinks like lattes. Milk and milk substitutes (soy, rice, almond, etc.) are exempt, as well as infant formula. Beverages for medical use or meal replacement won’t be taxed either – but only those obtained to be used under medical supervision, or that meet specific guidelines. The County says drinks like Boost, Ensure and Pedialyte are exempt from the tax.
5/13
Getty Images
The tax does not apply to alcoholic beverages, which are already subject to separate liquor taxes in both Cook County and the City of Chicago. However, a cocktail that contains a sweetened mixer will be taxed at the bar.
6/13
Getty Images
Syrups and powders are also subject to the tax at the same rate based on the amount of liquid that the product will make – but not if you make the drink yourself. So a restaurant will pay distributors an extra $38.40 on a 5-gallon bag of syrup for their soda fountain – a cost that will then be transferred to the customer – but if you buy lemonade powder to mix at home, that won’t cost extra.
7/13
Getty Images
Retailers, who all reimburse the tax to the distributor upfront, have the discretion to offer free refills without passing the cost on to the customer. The addition of ice is also up to the business, which can use cups with an ice fill line to submit proof to the Department of Revenue of ounces sold.
8/13
Getty Images
Yes, but only in Chicago. The city collects a three percent tax on retail sales of canned and bottled soft drinks, as well as a nine percent tax on the syrup price when it comes to fountain sodas. While Chicago is in Cook County, the new beverage tax will also apply to suburban communities within the county but outside city limits.
9/13
Getty Images
The tax will not apply to Cook County residents who receive federal aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As of May, there were approximately 900,000 people in Cook County receiving SNAP benefits.
10/13
Getty Images
Your Amazon prime membership won’t help you here. Any products ordered online that are shipped into Cook County, regardless of where the business is located, are subject to the tax. However, if a Cook County business ships outside, that transaction is not taxable.
11/13
Getty Images
The Cook County Board of Commissioners approved the tax in November to help close a budget deficit of nearly $174.3 million, a shortfall that could result in destabilizing cuts to county services. Board President Toni Preckwinkle has also promoted the health benefits of the initiative, with the ordinance detailing the adverse effects of sugar intake and the consumption of sweetened beverages, including an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, tooth decay and more.
12/13
Getty Images
The county estimates that the new tax will generate around $200 million in a year, though opponents warn that drink sales will drastically decline, leading to lost wages and economic activity. Those opponents - including organizations representing retailers and the beverage industry - also say residents near the county line will likely shop at stores in the collar counties that are not subject to the tax.
13/13
Getty Images
At least six cities in the U.S. have a sugary drinks tax, including San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Albany, California, as well as Boulder, Colorado, and most recently, Seattle, Washington.
Contact Us