Illinois cell phone taxes highest in nation
Nearly one-third of the cell phone bills in Illinois are taxes
Illinois cell phone users pay the highest cell service taxes in the nation, according to a new report from the Tax Foundation.
Illinois’ state and local wireless tax rate is 22.37%, more than 2% higher than the next closest state, Arkansas. When combined with the 9.83% federal rate, Illinoisans pay a 32.2% tax on cell phone service. After Arkansas, the next closest states are Washington, Nebraska and New York. Idaho users pay the lowest in the nation, with a state rate of just 2.71%.
Among Illinois’ neighboring states, only Missouri ranks close, at the 12th highest rate in the country. Wisconsin’s rate is the eighth lowest.
Illinois also has the highest sales tax rate on wireless service at 10%. Chicago residents have a higher burden than residents outside the city with their fees being higher.
911 fees also add up to 8.82% of taxation. In 2017, the General Assembly overrode Gov. Bruce Rauner’s amendatory veto to hike the statewide emergency service fee by 42%.
Illinoisans can thank Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan for some of their high cell service fees.
The 2017 bill hiking 911 fees was favorable to AT&T and some lawmakers even threatened to cancel 911 services if this version of the bill was not passed.
AT&T and employees of the company have donated significant amounts to Madigan’s campaigns. About $236,000 has been donated to three accounts under Madigan’s control since 2016, more than the company and its employees have given to any other lawmaker.
Madigan has been heavily implicated in federal charges filed against ComEd and ComEd employees. The charges outline a culture at the electrical company that revolved around rewarding Madigan by hiring his cronies to gain his favor for legislation.
ComEd admitted it paid $1.3 million to Madigan’s allies for little to no work, and allowed him to name people to jobs from meter reader on up in exchange for backing legislation worth $150 million. ComEd agreed to pay a $200 million fine and to cooperate with federal investigators.
The Chicago Tribune reported AT&T and ComEd had many of the same former Madigan staffers and state representatives on their employment rosters. This included Madigan’s former political director Tom Cullen and legal counsel Heather Wier Vaught. Former state Reps. Kevin McCarthy and James Brosnahan also got lobbying jobs with each company. AT&T Illinois President Eileen Mitchell worked for Madigan and former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Since four defendants were charged Nov. 18, including Madigan’s closest ally, 18 House Democrats have abandoned Madigan and said they will no longer vote for him to be reelected speaker in January. Gov. J.B. Pritzker also called on him to answer to the media, or resign.
Madigan’s legacy has been deficit budgets, the nation’s worst pension crisis and some of the nation’s highest tax burdens, including the priciest cell phone taxes in the U.S.