New Cook County hotel tax will make visiting Chicago even pricier

New Cook County hotel tax will make visiting Chicago even pricier

Cook County’s new 1 percent hotel tax will raise Chicago’s combined hotel tax to 17.4 percent in 2016.

Travelers looking forward to Windy City getaways in 2016 should prepare to spend even more on their hotel rooms. Effective May 1, 2016, Chicago’s combined hotel accommodations tax will rise to 17.4 percent from its current 16.4 percent rate.

Along with a slew of other new and increased taxes, including a 3 percent amusement tax on ticket reselling websites and an increase in the sales tax, the Cook County Board approved the 1 percent tax on hotel accommodations Nov. 18.

The Cook County tax will add $1 to a hotel room bill of $100. Chicago’s hotel tax is divided among the state, county and city governments, as well as entities such as the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle defended the new hotel tax, which is expected to raise $31 million per year for Cook County. Preckwinkle insisted, “Chicago is a world-class city and a major convention center and this should not discourage people from enjoying all our city has to offer.”

But city tourism agency Choose Chicago’s CEO Don Welsh excoriated the tax hike on hotel rooms for putting Chicago at a competitive disadvantage compared with cities such as Los Angeles, Atlanta and Orlando, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.

Even prior to the tax hike, Chicago had some of the highest travel taxes in the U.S., according to the Global Business Travel Association, an Alexandria, Virginia-based nonprofit that tracks business travel data and trends.

In addition to paying higher taxes on their hotel accommodations, visitors hoping to shop along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile or in its neighborhood boutiques should brace themselves for the city’s new 10.25 percent sales-tax rate, effective Jan. 1, 2016. Thanks to Cook County’s hike in the sales tax, Chicago will have the highest sales tax of any big city in the U.S.

Chicago’s hotels, shops and restaurants need people to come and spend money in the city, but Cook County’s new hotel tax adds yet another cost that makes visiting the Windy City less attractive. Politicians desperate for revenue should stop reaching their hands into tourists’ and residents’ pockets and should manage their budgets more responsibly instead.

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