Let’s say you buy a shirt for $39.50. You pick it up and bring it to the cash register, where the sales tax is added on.
You go to buy a pair of shoes; the shoes are marked, say, $59.95. You bring them to the cash register, and the sales tax is added on.
That’s the same process, over and over again, for just about all of your purchases. Even a big item, such as a washing machine or a car, is marketed with a before-tax price. The tax is added on at the end. You immediately and acutely are aware of the tax. You can, if you are keeping a running tab in your mind, accurately divide the blame. You know how much the seller is getting. You know how much the government is getting.
But there is one product that is sold, by law, with the tax lumped in. It’s gasoline. The tax, thus, becomes invisible. So, you don’t blame the government. You blame the business selling the gas for all of it. You might pin some of the blame to the brand of gasoline and some of the blame on the owner of the service station. Chances are strong you don’t blame the state of Illinois, even though you should.
Illinois now, according to the Tax Foundation of the American Petroleum Institute, has the third highest gas tax in the nation. It’s 54.98 cents per gallon. That figure is a composite of both state and local taxes. Some people are thankful the money will repair the roads. We’ll see.
What we advocate for here is a more honest approach at the point of sale. Illinois law prohibits advertising the base price of gas. We would like to see a sticker, on every pump, that says how much of your purchase is tax and how much you are paying for the actual gas. In essence, we then would be treating gas similar to any other consumer product.
It would, we think, open some eyes. Even if it doesn’t, it would be more honest.