Security issues help sink Welch bill on releasing sales tax data
A Democrat-sponsored bill that would allow the state to release a business' confidential sales tax data was rejected by the House last week.
During House debate April 25 over HB2717, sponsored by Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch (D-Hillside), Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) adamantly rejected the notion of allowing the Department of Revenue (DOR) to release a commerce’s confidential sales receipt data for third party review, saying the bill offers no legal and effective control for the information's dissemination.
To top it off, the third-party Welch wants to use is a politically connected government audit agency, according to Breen.
“This Azavar entity appears to be trying to skirt the law as it was,” Breen said, adding, “How can we trust this group to follow the law if we change it.”
Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) asked what if Azavar is bought out by another firm and questioned the security of the data going forward.
“This bill opens the door to a ton of mischief on many levels,” Fortner said.
Rep. David Harris (R-Arlington Heights) noted retail merchants have offered to provide a plethora of data needed for an audit and that third party review is not necessary, and Rep. Steven Reick (R-Woodstock) brought up the legal consequences of data ending up in the wrong hands and suggested building a firewall.
Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) pointed out that the firm could be driven to find audit discrepancies for their own financial gain.
Unlike their GOP peers, Rep. Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) and Rep. Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) stood in support of the bill.
McDermed suggested if there is sales tax fraud in Illinois, then having a third party review commerce receipts is needed so municipalities are not cheated out of sales tax.
Wheeler gave a litany of bill supporters including the Southern Illinois Mayor’s Association, Sutherland Chamber of Commerce, Cook County Municipal League, South Suburban Mayors and Managers and the McHenry Government Council.
“There are an awful lot on this side that are against this bill, and I am glad to hear the previous speaker speaking for it,” Wheeler said, noting the words of a mayor in her district who questions retail sales tax receipts. "We don’t have the people to hire to find our money from the government, and wouldn’t it be great if our department was able to accurately give us our money."
HB2717 was rejected by 61-42 vote.