Lawsuit filed challenging Rahm Emanuel's Chicago "Netflix tax"

It won’t surprise you to hear that in Chicago, spiritual and physical hometown of our current president, they just enact taxes willy-nilly to fill budget gaps without going through the process of actually making laws and voting on them. Who needs that kind of hassle when you’re from Chicago?


One such tax will face a lawsuit thanks to the unilateral style of its recent enactment by the Chicago Comptroller. A 9 percent tax on streaming services was never voted on by the City Council—it was just added as an “extension” of an existing tax; sound familiar?—and the Liberty Justice Center and plaintiff Natalie Bezek of the Illinois Policy Institute are bringing suit:

Chicago’s move to extend its taxing power to Internet streaming services like Netflix and Spotify has been challenged in court by a group that argues the city didn’t have the authority to create what amounts to new taxes.

In a lawsuit filed this week in Cook County Circuit Court, the nonprofit Liberty Justice Center says the city Finance Department’s rulings in June extending two taxes were illegal.

The department posted letters online announcing that the city was extending the 9 percent amusement tax to include paid subscriptions for streamed digital music, rental movies, TV shows and games, and also extending the personal property lease transaction tax to professional services like electronic property databases used by real estate agents.

The ruling applied the new standards to subscribers with Chicago addresses, and city officials said they expected the changes to bring in about $12 million annually in the latest example of Mayor Rahm Emanuel boosting various smaller fees and fines to try to help close the city’s gaping budget hole.

The lawsuit argues that aldermen should have gotten to vote on the changes.

“The Comptroller has exceeded his authority under the ordinance by issuing a rule that imposes a new tax that the City Council did not authorize in enacting the Amusement Tax,” the suit reads.


I’m glad someone is taking a swing at this thing, but perhaps more interesting than the lawsuit, is the demographics of the skeptics in this local news report. Bezek herself is a young person, as are the man-on-the-street targets in this video, all seemingly in their 20s, some wearing hipster hats and nose rings, looking like a marketer’s dream, and all spouting surprisingly libertarian sentiments. Some samples of Millenials at long last being fed up with the gluttonous Chicago government coming for more of their money:

“Streaming services already have their own problems. Then you want to add more money to it. So, I just feel like, “No!” Taxing, stop!” said Columbia College student Fred Jones

FOX 32: We owe all these pensions. We need some money.

“That’s true. But raising streaming software that all of us college students binge on is not a way to do it,” said student Ryan Horacek.

“We already have to pay for our phone bills and all this other stuff. So, to add on a 9 percent tax, that’s crazy,” said Atavicka Ware.

Hey, this is hearts and minds territory for this generation. As the saying goes: They came for the property taxes and I said nothing because I was not a homeowner. They came for the small business fees and I said nothing because I was not a small businessman. But then, oh then, they came for the binge streaming of “Buffy” and I finally spoke out.


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