FILE - Cash register retail sales tax

If you buy something in Chicago, more than a dime on the dollar is going to state and local government, the highest sales tax of any large city in America. 

The nonpartisan Tax Foundation analyzed sales tax rates in cities with more than 200,000 people and released a report Wednesday. When the state's 6.25 percent sales tax is combined with 4 percent split between the city, county, and a special transit tax, Chicago’s sales tax is 10.25 percent, that's tied with two cities in California for the highest combined rate in the country.

The Tax Foundation's State Tax Policy Analyst Janelle Cammenga said sales taxes are stable if they’re reasonable, but outliers like Chicago’s will change consumer behavior.

“People may need to buy necessities no matter what the economy is doing, but that doesn’t mean they need to buy things in town, especially in places where the sales tax is as high as it is in Chicago,” she said. 

With the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that says sellers need to charge the sales tax of where the buyer resides, Cammenga says complicated tax rates make doing business difficult.

“If people are selling to a bunch of different localities it’s going to be a lot more difficult and potentially raise some legal questions,” she said.

Illinois statewide average sales tax is 8.74 percent, which was the seventh-highest in the nation.

Just over the Wisconsin border, consumers who buy in Milwaukee or Madison pay about half the tax rate. Sixteen large cities, according to the report, charge no state or local sales tax.


Sales tax rankings

Chicago Illinois 10.250% 1 

Glendale California 10.250% 1 

Long Beach California 10.250% 1 

Tacoma Washington 10.200% 4 

Seattle Washington 10.100% 5 

Birmingham Alabama 10.000% 6 

St. Louis Missouri 9.679% 7 

Los Angeles California 9.500% 8 

Santa Clarita California 9.500% 8 

Baton Rouge Louisiana 9.450% 10 

New Orleans Louisiana 9.450% 10 

Fremont California 9.250% 12 

Memphis Tennessee 9.250% 12 

Nashville Tennessee 9.250% 12 

Oakland California 9.250% 12 

San Jose California 9.250% 12 

Santa Ana California 9.250% 12 

Glendale Arizona 9.200% 18 

Stockton California 9.000% 19 

Atlanta Georgia 8.900% 20 

Spokane Washington 8.900% 20 

New York New York 8.875% 22 

Buffalo New York 8.750% 23 

Chula Vista California 8.750% 23 

Riverside California 8.750% 23 

Sacramento California 8.750% 23 

Tucson Arizona 8.700% 27 

Oklahoma City 8.625% 28 

Kansas City Missouri 8.600% 29 

Phoenix Arizona 8.600% 29 

Tulsa Oklahoma 8.517% 31 

Aurora Colorado  8.500% 32 

San Francisco California 8.500% 32 

Tampa Florida 8.500% 32 

Denver Colorado 8.310% 35

Source: Tax Foundation

Staff Writer

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Bloomington/Normal and Peoria, and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.