26 Dec 2023
9 min read

What Is the Sales Tax in Illinois?

Unraveling the layers that make up Illinois sales tax—from its historical roots to the state, county, city components and more.
Table of contents

In the intricate taxation landscape, comprehending your state's sales tax can be daunting, yet it remains crucial for businesses and consumers. This is particularly significant if you reside in Illinois, as its sales tax structure sets it apart from other states. The sales tax in Illinois consists of a combination of state, county, and even city sales taxes, which can substantially impact your purchases or business operations.

Although this multi-tiered approach may initially appear overwhelming, with a little insight, navigating it becomes manageable. In this article, we will delve into the layers of Illinois sales tax, offering a comprehensive understanding of its implications for you. Whether you are a business owner striving to maintain compliance or an informed consumer seeking to grasp where your money goes, read on to gain valuable insights into this essential subject matter.

History of Sales Tax in Illinois

The sales tax in Illinois has a riveting history dating back to the early 20th century. Initially introduced in 1933 during the Great Depression, it was seen as a means to stabilize the state's economy, providing a consistent stream of revenue to combat financial instability. Back then, the sales tax was a flat rate of 2%. However, over the years, as the needs of the state evolved, so did the sales tax.

Today, the state's sales tax stands at 6.25%, with additional county and city sales taxes potentially pushing the total amount to 11%. For instance, if you were to buy a $1,000 laptop in Chicago, where the total sales tax is 10.25%, you would end up paying an additional $102.50 in sales tax. Illinois' sales tax's dynamic and multi-faceted nature showcases its adaptability to changing economic landscapes and its vital role in state and local funding.

Understanding the Components of Illinois Sales Tax

As mentioned earlier, Illinois sales tax comprises three components- state, county, and city sales taxes. Let's break them down to understand their significance better.

State Sales Tax

Illinois's state sales tax rate is the fundamental component of the overall sales tax residents must pay. Currently, at 6.25%, it is levied on selling most goods and certain services within the state. This primary levy goes directly into the state's coffers, contributing to general statewide expenses, such as infrastructure, education, and public safety.

To illustrate how this works, let's consider the purchase of a new bicycle priced at $200. In this case, the state sales tax portion you would pay is $12.50 (6.25% of $200), which then goes into funding various state-level initiatives. Understanding the state sales tax is crucial, as it forms the base upon which other local taxes are added, culminating in the total sales tax you pay for any particular purchase within Illinois.

County Sales Tax

The County Sales Tax, the second component of the Illinois sales tax structure, varies from one county to another, typically ranging from 0.25% to 1.75%. It is imposed on top of the state sales tax, contributing to consumers' overall sales tax percentage on their purchases. The tax funds collected from this county school facility support local services and initiatives, such as parks, libraries, and public health programs.

For example, consider you are buying a piece of furniture for $500 in Chicago, which has a county sales tax of 1.75%. In this case, you would pay the county sales tax of $8.75 (1.75% of $500). While seemingly small, this tax has a significant cumulative effect, providing essential funding for numerous county-level services and infrastructure developments. Therefore, understanding this component of the sales tax not only informs you about how much you are paying and gives insights into how these funds are instrumental in shaping the local community.

City Sales Tax

As if the state and county sales taxes weren't enough, some cities in Illinois also levy their sales tax on top of the other two. This third component is city sales tax, which can vary significantly from one city to another, typically ranging from 0.25% to 2%. Like the county sales tax, this additional charge funds various city-level programs and services, such as public transportation, sanitation, and emergency response.

For instance, if you buy groceries worth $100 in Peoria, which has a city sales tax of 1%, the additional amount you would pay towards the city sales tax is $1 (1% of $100). While this might seem small, it adds up and is essential in financing the city's ongoing initiatives. Knowing this sales tax component helps you understand how your cumulative gross receipts are utilized locally and can influence purchasing decisions.

Factors That Affect Sales Tax in Illinois

Factors that affect sales tax in Illinois

Now that we have covered the sales tax components, let's look at some factors that can influence it. Understanding these variables can help you plan and budget effectively while navigating Illinois's complex sales tax structure.

Type of Goods or Services

The type of goods or services you purchase in Illinois can significantly impact the sales tax you pay. It's important to note that not all goods and services are taxed equally. Some essentials, such as prescription medication and certain unprepared food items, are taxed at a reduced rate or exempt from sales tax. This lower rate aims to lessen the financial burden on consumers who depend on these goods daily.

Conversely, luxury items and non-essential goods like designer clothing or high-end electronics are typically subject to the full sales tax rate. Services can also be subject to sales tax, depending on the service type. For instance, professional services like legal advice or accounting are generally exempt from sales tax in Illinois, whereas telecommunication services are taxable.


The location of Illinois where you make your purchase is a significant factor in determining the total sales tax rate. As discussed earlier, Illinois sales tax has three components: state, county, and city sales tax. While the state sales tax remains consistent throughout Illinois, the county and city sales taxes can vary significantly.

This variation is due to the different local sales tax rates that counties and cities impose on top of the state sales tax. For example, in Chicago, the total sales tax rate is 10.25%, which is a summation of the state sales tax (6.25%), the county tax (1.75%), and a city tax (1.25%), along with a special tax rate. On the other hand, if you were to shop in Champaign, you'd encounter a total sales tax of 9%, comprising the state sales tax (6.25%), a county tax (0.25%), and a city tax (2.5%). These variations mean that the item could cost more or less depending on where you buy it in Illinois.

Special Taxing Districts

In addition to the state, county, and city sales taxes, Illinois also has what are known as Special Taxing Districts. The state defines unique areas where an additional tax is levied on top of the standard sales taxes. The purpose of these districts is to finance special projects or improvements within that specific area, such as infrastructure development, neighborhood revitalization, or economic growth initiatives.

The tax rate for these Special Taxing Districts can vary widely, typically from 0.25% to 1%, and applies to all taxable goods and services sold within the district boundaries. For example, if you were to purchase in a Special Taxing District with an additional tax rate of 0.5%, this would be added to your total sales tax. Awareness of these districts can help consumers make informed decisions about where to shop and also understand the additional costs associated with purchases made within these areas.

Use Tax

Use tax is a complementary tax to sales tax and is applicable when sales tax hasn't been paid on a taxable item or service. This can happen when you purchase goods online from an out-of-state retailer that doesn't have a physical presence, such as a store or warehouse. In this case, the retailer isn't required to collect Illinois sales tax and remit sales tax to the state, and it becomes the buyer's responsibility to pay use tax on those purchases.

Use tax rates in Illinois are usually equivalent to the sales tax rates for a particular location, but they can vary depending on whether the purchase was made from within or outside of Illinois. For example, if you buy an item online from a retailer based in Illinois and the sales tax rate at your location is 9%, you would also pay a use tax of 9% on that purchase. However, if you were to buy the same item from an out-of-state retailer with no physical presence in Illinois, you would still be liable for paying a 6.25% use tax to the state since that is Illinois's standard sales tax rate.

Tax-Exempt Organizations

While most purchases in Illinois are subject to sales tax, there are some exceptions where a buyer may not need to pay any sales tax at all. These exemptions usually apply to certain organizations, such as government agencies, schools, and non-profit entities. For example, if you purchase office supplies for a school in Illinois, you wouldn't pay any sales tax on those items. Similarly, if a charitable organization buys materials to build homes for the homeless, they may be exempt from paying sales tax on those purchases.

To qualify for a sales tax exemption, an organization must meet certain criteria and obtain the necessary documentation from the state. These exemptions are intended to support and promote the efforts of these organizations in serving the community and fulfilling their missions. If you are a part of a tax-exempt organization, it's essential to understand which purchases are exempt from remitting Illinois sales tax and have the documentation readily available when making purchases.

Resale Exemption

In addition to tax-exempt organizations, some goods and services are also eligible for resale exemption. This means that while the initial purchase by a retailer is subject to sales tax when the item is resold to a customer, the retailer can claim an exemption from paying sales tax on that transaction. For example, if a clothing store purchases inventory to sell to customers, they would pay sales tax on those items. However, when they sell those same items to a customer, they can claim a resale exemption and not charge sales tax.

To qualify for this exemption, the retailer must provide a valid resale certificate to their supplier when making purchases. This certificate certifies that the purchased items will be resold and, therefore, are exempt from sales tax. The state also conducts audits to ensure that retailers are not misusing the resale exemption for tangible personal property.

Benefits of Understanding Sales Tax

Understanding the various components and exemptions related to Illinois sales tax can provide consumers with several benefits. Here are some key reasons why having a good understanding of sales tax can be beneficial:

Make Informed Shopping Decisions

A comprehensive understanding of Illinois sales tax is crucial for consumers to make well-informed shopping choices. With variations in local and special district tax rates, the total cost of an item can vary significantly based on the purchase location. For instance, buying a $500 appliance in Chicago, where the sales tax rate is 10.25%, would result in a sales tax of $51.25, bringing the total cost to $551.25.

Similarly, purchasing the same appliance in Champaign, with a sales tax rate of 9%, would total $545. Awareness of these tax rates can help consumers determine the most cost-effective location for significant purchases. Moreover, understanding the use of tax can prevent unexpected liabilities. If a consumer buys the same $500 appliance from an out-of-state online retailer where no sales tax is collected at the point of sale, the consumer would be responsible for remitting a $31.25 use tax to Illinois.

Supporting Local Businesses

Understanding and properly applying sales taxes benefits individual consumers and plays a vital role in supporting local businesses. When buyers choose to shop at local brick-and-mortar stores instead of online platforms or out-of-state retailers, they directly contribute to the local economy and help maintain the vibrancy of their communities. This is because the sales taxes that are collected locally are often reinvested in the community through funding for public schools, infrastructure improvements, and other local projects.

In Illinois, for instance, if a family decides to purchase their new car from a local dealership rather than an out-of-state seller, the sales tax paid on this substantial purchase helps fund local public services. Even if the sales tax rate may be slightly higher within their locality, it's essential to consider the broader impact of these funds. In essence, local purchases can become an investment in the community, enriching the quality of life for all residents. Understanding this facet of sales tax can encourage more consumers to support local ventures, ultimately fostering a robust, sustainable, and thriving local economy.

Sales Tax Revenue for the State

Sales taxes form a substantial portion of Illinois state revenue, providing essential funding for various public services. This includes public education, transportation infrastructure, public safety, and health services, among other important areas. By understanding the significance of sales tax, consumers can appreciate that their tax contributions assist in providing these vital services.

For instance, when a consumer purchases a new laptop, the sales tax contributes to the state's budget, helping fund school improvements or road repairs. This revenue stream helps to create a robust and prosperous state, ensuring the welfare of all its residents. Furthermore, sales tax revenue can help the state to financially navigate challenging periods, such as economic downturns or public health crises, serving as a stabilizing force for the economy. Hence, sales tax is not merely a financial obligation but a contribution to the collective well-being of the state.


Both consumers and businesses need to understand the structure and implications of the Illinois Department of Sales Tax. Why? It helps us make informed purchasing decisions, support local businesses, and contribute to our state's revenue. At first, taxes might seem like a burden, but they play a crucial role in ensuring the prosperity of our communities and the overall growth of Illinois. So, by paying sales taxes, we're investing in the collective betterment of our state and contributing to its continual development.
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