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Business groups gear up for fight against tax change

November 27, 2012 2:18 pm  •  Kurt Erickson/Times Bureau

SPRINGFIELD — Business groups are gearing up to fight a proposal that would require some companies in Illinois to disclose their state income tax information.

Under a Democrat-backed plan expected to be voted on in the Senate within the next few days, income tax information for publicly traded corporations would be posted online by the state.

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said the change would give legislators information they need to assess whether businesses are paying their fair share of the state tax load.

He said two-thirds of corporations pay no income taxes because of deductions, tax breaks and “loopholes.”

“What we’re asking for is really pretty sensible,” Cullerton said.

But the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Manufacturers Association say the information should stay secret because it could put companies at a competitive disadvantage.

“It’s just a tool for an anti-corporate, anti-employer agenda that we think is going to make Illinois that much less attractive to employers from across the nation,” Chamber vice president Todd Maisch said.

“If this is good public policy for disclosure, then I would recommend all legislators reveal their tax information,” Mark Denzler of the Illinois Manufacturers Association said.

Cullerton and House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, announced their support for the plan Tuesday on the first day of the General Assembly’s fall veto session.

A number of church-based groups applauded the push, saying families are paying a disproportionate share of state taxes. Making the information public could help guide lawmakers in establishing a more equitable tax code, said Marilyn Pagan-Banks, executive director of A Just Harvest, a Chicago-based meal program for the poor.

“We don’t know who is paying and who is not,” Pagan-Banks said.

The proposal calls for delaying the release of business tax information for two years in order to reduce concerns that the numbers could be used by other companies to gain a competitive edge.

“I do not view this as being business unfriendly,” Cullerton said. “Nobody is going to be leaving the state if we pass this law.”

“The better informed policy makers are, the better public policy decisions they make,” Currie added.

Denzler said it is ironic that Cullerton, a lawyer, has exempted law firms from having to report their tax information.

“If transparency is a good idea, why doesn’t he want to require it for all businesses?” Denzler said.

The legislation is Senate Bill 282.

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