The Windy City blows away your holiday travel dollars

The Windy City blows away your holiday travel dollars

Illinois stands above its peers when it comes to taxing residents. But Chicago makes it really something to behold when visitors see that famous skyline with all its tall taxes.

Welcome to Chicago. Take our complimentary taxation tour to see how we get the most out of your visit.

If you landed at one of the metropolis’ airports, you paid $4.50 to see the terminal. If you took a cab, you paid a $4 “departure tax” just for the privilege of pulling away from the airport’s curb. Train? That’s $5 from the airport, which is double the regular L rate.

Hotel? That’s 17.4% atop your bill – 11th highest of the 150 largest metro areas – after the state, county, city and special districts all get their cuts. If the rate were to go up just a half-percentage point, Chicago could knock off St. Louis as No. 1. The rate already rose 1% from 2016 when Cook County added its bite.

Airbnb may offer a cheaper place to stay, but the city gets a 6% share when you share someone’s home.

How about a concert? Or maybe you want to see the Chicago Bears, or rent a PlayStation game. Well, you get to enjoy a 9% “amusement tax” on your entertainment.

Getting thirsty? That’s 5 cents per bottle of water. Soda costs an extra 3%. If you prefer the hard stuff, a standard 750-milliliter bottle of vodka (40% alcohol by volume) will cost $7.11 more in taxes.

Will you be dining out this evening? The combined state and local sales tax rate in the city is 10.25%, plus 1% downtown for Navy Pier and the McCormick Place convention center, and another 0.25% just for dining. That’s 11.5% to eat out, among the highest rates in the nation.

Cruising on Lake Michigan ends with a 7% tax on mooring. Want a souvenir? Add 7 cents for the shopping bag.

Taking Uber or Lyft to Grant Park or the museums might save a buck – or cost a few. Chicago hiked its 52 cent tax on ride-sharing trips  in 2018 and again in 2019 for a total of 72 cents per trip.

Running a little short on cash? Save by taking the bus, but a one-way trip went up 25 cents in January to $2.50.

Drove yourself in? Parking tax is as high as 28%. Gasoline taxes in the city total 50 cents per gallon.

But the museums, the White Sox, Cubbies, Blackhawks, the Centennial Wheel and Millennium Park’s “Bean” all still bring visitors in smiling like Ferris Bueller with a day off. In 2017, there were 55 million visitors welcomed by 15 new hotels that opened in the area. HVS Global Hospitality Service said those hotels added more than 2,800 new rooms, including 1,205 near McCormick Place.

So how does that all add up? Chicago taxation back in 2013 was No. 1 at $41.04 per day, beating New York City by $2.39 a day, according to the Global Business Travel Association’s most recent ranking of the 50 top destinations for business travelers. City taxes have only gone up since then.

Be glad you are just visiting. If you lived in Chicago, you’d daily run across any number of the 33 local taxes and fees that make its residents the most-taxed in a state that tops the nation in overall tax burden.

Thanks for visiting the City of Big Shoulders, piggy bank butcher to the world.

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