By JOHN O’CONNOR for the Associated Press
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Inflation means stocking up on pencils, notebooks, crayons and clothes for your kids’ return to school is more expensive this year, so Illinois state leaders on Thursday offered a 10-day sales tax reduction on classroom needs.
Beginning Friday, the state sales tax on school materials, including clothing, will be 1.25% for 10 days, down from the usual 6.25%, part of an inflation relief plan put together by Democrats who control the General Assembly. They have said it’s possible because of four consecutive balanced budgets under Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Teachers will also get a break on classroom materials with a $250 tax credit this year and $500 in 2023.
“These past two-and-a-half years — for everyone — of managing through the pandemic has been hard,” Pritzker said Thursday at Roosevelt Elementary School in Broadview, a suburb west of Chicago. “And the last nine months of inflation on top of that has strained the budgets of parents and teachers alike.”
Prices, which topped a four-decade high by increasing to 9.1% in June, are foremost on voters’ minds as the November election nears. Sales have suffered as consumers cut back or turn to cheaper goods.
Inflation had already hit 7% at the end of last year when Pritzker, who is running for reelection, devised the so-called Family Relief Plan. Several other states took similar action.
In Illinois, it became a $1.83 billion package including the school supplies tax break, a one-year elimination of the 1% sales tax on groceries, a six-month suspension of an automatic 2.2-cent increase in the motor fuel tax, and rebates on property and income taxes.
Rebates should begin rolling out Sept. 12, Pritzker’s Revenue Department said.
The 5 percentage point drop in the sales tax on school supplies means that instead of paying $15.63 in tax on for $250 worth of goods, a shopper would pay $3.13, a savings of 80%. However, that wouldn’t represent the entire sales tax bill because many cities and counties impose sales tax, too.
Chicago shoppers will still pay 5.25% because of a 1.25% city tax, a 1.75% Cook County tax and a 1% special tax. Local sales taxes in Aurora amount to 3.25%; in Rockford, 3.75%; in Quincy, 4%; in Springfield, 4.75% and in Belleville, 4.1%
“Prices on everyday items seem to increase every single day, and many families feel the squeeze in these uncertain economic times…,” said Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, a Maywood Democrat. “And I’m talking also about grandparents who are raising grandchildren and those who find themselves in a predicament that they generally would not be.”
Teachers will get a break through tax credits — that is, a reduction in the amount of state taxes owed — of $250 this year and $500 in 2023.
Teachers spend an average of $750 out of pocket on supplies and materials to prepare their classrooms for an influx of students, said Maywood Mayor Nathaniel George Booker.
“A lot of times, those supplies go to students who need help,” Booker said.
Revenue Department spokeswoman Maura Kownacki said the rebate rollout is a leviathan task, with 6.2 million income tax payers in the state. But officials are aiming for a start date of Sept. 12.
Those making less than $200,000 in 2021 will receive $50 rebates, spokeswoman Maura Kownacki said. There will be $100 rebates for couples filing jointly with incomes under $400,000. Taxpayers will also receive $100 per child claimed as a dependent, up to three children.
Property tax rebates are available in an amount equal to the property tax credit for which filers qualified on their 2021 state tax returns, up to $300. Single filers making more than $250,000 and couples filing jointly reporting an income greater than $500,000 do not qualify.
The state comptroller will issue checks from an eligibility list certified by Revenue, Kownacki said. Money will be refunded in the same manner as initial tax refunds.
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