By Zack Atkins and Eric Coffill
The Illinois Supreme Court invalidated a Chicago ruling obligating suburban car rental companies to collect Chicago’s personal property lease transaction tax on rental transactions occurring outside the city on the grounds that it violated the Illinois Constitution. The ruling, which the City of Chicago Department of Revenue issued in 2011, required companies doing business in the city to maintain written records, when renting a car from a location within three miles of the city’s boundaries, to support a claim for exemption from the tax. Without these records, the department would assume that a Chicago resident was using the car primarily in the city, thereby subjecting that individual to tax, and that a non-resident was using the car primarily outside the city. If the customer indicated in the rental agreement that he or she intended to use the car primarily inside or outside the city, the department would deem that acceptable evidence of a taxable or a non-taxable transaction, respectively. The Illinois Supreme Court held that the ruling violated the “home rule provision” of the Illinois Constitution, which prohibits extraterritorial taxation by home rule jurisdictions without a specific grant of authority by the state legislature. The court observed that the ruling imposed the tax based on the customer’s stated intent to use the property in Chicago—not actual use in Chicago—or on a presumption of use based on the customer’s place of residence. In either case, the court said the connection between the rental transaction and the city was too tenuous. Hertz Corp. v. City of Chicago, 2017 IL 119945.