Sunday, August 30, 2009

Small Business: Tightening the Belt--Again

Candy or food?
Confusion grows as new tax looms

Ameet Sachdev and Bob Secter Tribune staff reporters
August 2, 2009


So you think you know your candy, Mr. and Ms. Sweet Tooth? The State of Illinois begs to differ.

That regular melt-in-your-mouth Hershey's bar? Candy for sure. But the Cookies 'n' Creme spinoff? That's food, not candy, according to a new state tax law.

A Butterfinger? Candy. Butterfinger Stixx with wafer center? Not candy.

Likewise, Twix, Kit Kat and Twizzlers, are all candy-aisle staples that Illinois no longer officially considers to be candy.

And on it goes down the list of cavity-inducing standbys as the state scratches to squeeze more money out of consumers to help pay for a $31 billion public works program Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed into law.

Taxes are rarely simple, but some revisions to the state sales tax slated to go into effect Tuesday, Sept. 1, are fraught with headache-inducing complexity that could make routine grocery shopping more expensive and deciphering the register tab far more difficult.

"Good luck explaining this to customers," complained Art Potash, owner of the Potash Bros. chain of neighborhood food marts in Chicago. "Then we're the bad guy because we can't explain it to them sufficiently. ... It's a nightmare on many levels."

Retail food sales have long been taxed at a steep discount from other merchandise, and the state defined food in a way most dentists and moms never would, by including candy and soda. The new tax rules demote candy and soft drinks from the food group, making them subject to the full sales-tax freight, which can run as high as 10.25 percent in Chicago.

In practical terms, a $1 candy bar that now sells for about $1.02 with tax will cost about $1.10. under the new rules.

Confusion sets in because lawmakers, in raising the tax, also carved out gaping exceptions.

Sweets containing flour as an ingredient--and there are a lot of them--are not legally deemed to be candy, even if common sense and common taste say otherwise.
And yes, licorice-based products such as Twizzlers have flour in them.

At a minimum, the new definition could force retailers to scour the fine print on ingredient labels for hundreds of common products and then make difficult judgment calls on their taxability. Some legal experts say the complexity built into the law could make it ripe for a legal challenge.

To make things more complicated, outside Chicago the tax will vary from town to town and county to county. Interpreting the new rules may not be a big deal for giant chains such as Wal-Mart or Walgreens, which have large staffs of legal and product experts on the payroll. It's a different story for small grocers and mom-and-pop convenience shops.

"I anticipate having to make some arbitrary choices about what a high tax is and what a low tax [is]," complained Arthur Paris, the owner of Carnival Foods in Lincoln Park. "It is virtually impossible for a one-horse shop like me to get this right."

Tax law expert Mike Wynne, a former general counsel for the Illinois Department of Revenue, said the changes could run afoul of the Illinois constitution, which requires that the state set reasonable classifications to tax items at different rates.

"If you put yogurt on a piece of fruit, it becomes a candy," Wynne said of the new rules. "But if you put it on a pretzel [which contains flour], it's food.

"Illinois is hardly the first state to take on the "if it's got flour, it's not candy" conundrum. The language was copied straight from a model law drafted by a multi-state organization called the Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board, which aims to makes sales-tax rules more uniform across the nation.

Scott Peterson, executive director of the Nashville-based group, said the organization struggled over how to define candy for tax purposes because many products that some states saw as cookies, other states saw as candy bars. "It finally came to us throwing up our hands and saying, 'What in the world can we use as a definition that would be relatively straightforward and easy for a retailer to discern?'" Peterson said.

Illinois is not a signatory to the streamlined tax compact. But Dave Vite, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said his trade group covets inter-state uniformity in tax laws and pushed lawmakers to adopt the compact's definitions of candy and soft drinks when the tax issue was up for debate a few months ago.

"When you get a lot of people making the stew, you're going to have a lot of ingredients, and sometimes it's not perfect," Vite said.

Bill Ahern, a spokesman for the non-partisan Tax Foundation in Washington, said carving out narrow taxes and exemptions creates an administrative nightmare for small retailers while giving an advantage to highly computerized retail chains that can spread costs of compliance over multiple stores.
With states pressed for cash, tax logic is becoming increasingly strained and inconsistent, Ahern argued, pointing to a New York decision that Ovaltine is deserving of a sales-tax exemption but Tang is not. Another example: Iowa officials decreed a few years ago that although pumpkins sold for pies were exempt from sales taxes, pumpkins sold for jack-o'-lanterns were not. The ruling led to protest and was quickly rescinded.

"There's no scientific basis for a lot of these taxes," Ahern said. "These are just political, arbitrary decisions that juggle what is deserving of an exemption and how much money they want to generate."




Pantagraph, the central Illinois newspaper, offers a somewhat clearer distinction on categories of the new tax:

What's going up
Starting Tuesday, taxes on alcoholic drinks will go up, and the sales tax rate on candy, soda and some hygiene products will, too. Here's a look at what consumers can expect.

Alcohol:Increased taxes will be paid by distributors, and could be passed onto consumers.

Beer: 2.6 cents more per 6-pack
Wine: 13 cents more per bottle
Hard liquor: 81 cents per fifth

Sales taxes:
The state's share of sales taxes on several items will be raised from the 1
percent rate used on food and medicine to the standard 6.25 percent. Here's some of what would be affected.

-- Chocolate bars
-- Yogurt or chocolate covered fruit or nuts
-- Honey-coated nuts
-- Lollipops
-- Breath mints
-- Gum
-- Caramel popcorn
-- Body soap
-- Shampoo
-- Toothpaste
-- Mouthwash
-- Deodorant
-- Sunblock
-- Soda
-- Sport drinks
-- Sweetened tea-- Flavored waters

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We at Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce draw the line at raising the tax on bodily hygiene products. These are items that help build self-respect and, consequently, respect for others.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Aflac benefits

Aflac Rep. Jay Ahmed is a Business Member of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce. Email Jay for some great rates on your benefit plan, jay_ahmed@us.aflac.com

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

To market, to market...for the holidays

New Ways to Engage Customers

Make sure these 3 crucial elements are part of your marketing plan.

By Kim T. Gordon
August 24, 2009


Want to know how to spend your marketing dollars this fall? Here’s a hint--throw out last year’s plan and start fresh. The economic downturn coupled with the rise in social media and the full-bore acceptance of an internet that’s accessible virtually everywhere has forever changed the way customers shop.

Rather than rely solely on media such as television, radio, newspapers and magazines, it’s time to allocate a larger percentage of your budget to less traditional tactics. Winning and keeping customers now calls for innovative marketing that engages prospects in more direct ways. As you plan your holiday marketing tactics, be sure to factor in these three critical elements for a campaign that will work in today’s socially and economically altered marketplace:


1. New Media Has Taken Hold
This is not the time for an off-the-shelf media buy. Now is the time to integrate traditional media with new ways of reaching customers. For example, you could use cable TV ads to build recognition and credibility for your business, and newspaper ads to draw prospects to specific price promotions. But both techniques produce better results today if combined with a terrific interactive company website--the first stop many customers make to learn more about you--as well as positive online reviews and recommendations on third-party sites. If you regularly use radio advertising, this fall combine it with a social media effort built around a fun or innovative concept that keeps customers listening for the next installment in your ad campaign.


2. One-on-one Communication Builds Bonds

They say everything old is new again, and that couldn’t be more on point when it comes to devising opportunities for customer interaction.

Consumers who are evaluating every purchase want to make safe and sound decisions. So they’re spending their money at businesses, and on products and services, they trust to deliver on every level--from the purchase itself to customer service, low price guarantees and shopping convenience.

Create opportunities to communicate directly with customers. If you’re a retailer, it’s a great time to revive or step up in-store demonstrations, workshops and other events. And customer appreciation events that allow you to share information can be held in your office or off-site. Once you’re face-to-face with customers you’ll have the opportunity to communicate in ways that can never be achieved strictly through media advertising alone.


3. Consumers Expect to Be Engaged and Understood
In this era of instant and pervasive interpersonal communication, engagement through online dialogue helps customers relate to your company or brand. The key to establishing a positive relationship is to demonstrate that your company cares about the same things its customers care about. Encourage customers to talk with you or about you, just so long as you get them talking.

There are several smart ways to engage customers online. You can participate actively in social networking websites and add an interactive element to your own company website where customers can communicate with you and each other.


This fall, consider selecting individuals to be part of an online “advisory” group that will provide you with feedback and insight in exchange for early notifications of sales, new products and offers, or free or additional rewards. You can post their insights through a message board or blog and feature stories about their experiences with your products or services on your site.

Are there charitable causes that are important to your customers? There’s no better way to demonstrate you share their concerns than by contributing your time or dollars to address issues important to them. Detail your charitable efforts on your website to demonstrate that your company is one customers can trust and believe in.

Kim T. Gordon is the author of four books, the "Marketing" coach at Entrepreneur.com and a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, columnist and media spokesperson. Over the past 30 years, she's helped millions of small-business owners increase their success. You can learn about individual coaching and reach Kim through her website SmallBusinessNow.com, featuring hundreds of free articles. Her new, weekly how-to videos are now available.
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Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce can help you answer questions about holiday marketing.

Visit our website http://www.rogerspark.cc/ or contact us at chamberinfo@rogerspark.cc


We look forward to serving you!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Aflac benefits

Aflac Rep. Jay Ahmed is a Business Member of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce. Email Jay for some great rates on your benefit plan, jay_ahmed@us.aflac.com

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Aflac benefits

Aflac Rep. Jay Ahmed is a Business Member of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce. Email Jay for some great rates on your benefit plan, jay_ahmed@us.aflac.com

Saturday, August 22, 2009


In our goal to see Rogers Park become, once again, a viable business-oriented area of Chicago, we go beyond the boundaries of our neighborhood to seek more information on just how to re-vitalize our couple of square miles in Chicago.


www.rogerspark.cc
chamberinfo@rogerspark.cc

Friday, August 21, 2009

Aflac benefits

Aflac Rep. Jay Ahmed is a Business Member of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce. Email Jay for some great rates on your benefit plan, jay_ahmed@us.aflac.com


Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce feels it is indeed time to encourage small business in all neighborhoods, but particularly here in Rogers Park.

Please join us in our efforts to improve our business community.

Visit our website today
http://www.rogerspark.cc/

And send any questions you may have to chamberinfo@rogerspark.cc

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Aflac benefits

Aflac Rep. Jay Ahmed is a Business Member of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce. Email Jay for some great rates on your benefit plan, jay_ahmed@us.aflac.com

Stop by on Saturday, RAIN or SHINE!

Don't miss this because it's sure to be fun for everyone!

Our official Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce map shows you exactly where it is, just a few blocks walk from buses and trains at the Howard Street Station!


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Aflac benefits

Aflac Rep. Jay Ahmed is a Business Member of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce. Email Jay for some great rates on your benefit plan, jay_ahmed@us.aflac.com

Monday, August 17, 2009

Aflac benefits

Aflac Rep. Jay Ahmed is a Business Member of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce. Email Jay for some great rates on your benefit plan, jay_ahmed@us.aflac.com

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Monday, August 17 to Be Reduced-Service Day for City

For Immediate Release
Contact: Peter Scales
Phone: 312-744-1821
Monday, August 17 to Be Reduced-Service Day for City


The 1600 block of W. Howard Street on Saturday afternoon.


The City of Chicago is reminding residents that Monday, August 17 will be a reduced-service day for the City of Chicago – City Hall, public libraries, health clinics, and most city offices will be closed.

Most services not directly related to public safety will not be provided on that day, including refuse pickup. However, all public safety services, including police and fire, will remain at full strength and will not be impacted by the reduced-service day.

As part of the 2009 budget, three reduced-service days were planned for 2009, which will be unpaid for all affected City employees: the Friday after Thanksgiving; Christmas Eve; and New Year's Eve. The City Council recently approved moving the reduced-service day planned for New Year’s Eve to Monday, August 17.

On the three reduced-service days, the City will employ the minimum amount of staff needed to provide essential city services. Police and Fire Department operations will not be affected, as the reduced-service days do not apply to any sworn employees or other direct public safety providers.

City Hall, libraries, health clinics, senior service centers and other City offices will be closed.
Refuse will also not be collected on August 17.
Residents who receive regular city collection services on Mondays should expect their collection to be made on the following day. Some other customers may also experience a one-day delay in refuse pickup. Street sweeping will also not occur on Monday.

The 2009 budget anticipates saving $8.3 million due to the reduced-service days across all funds.

"Every dollar we save from these measures helps to save jobs, and in the long-term, maintain services for Chicagoans," said Mayor Richard M. Daley. "This plan relies on most of our civilian employees to be part of the solution to our very serious budget challenges. I want to thank them again for their sacrifice."
In addition to the reduced service days, all non-union employees were asked to take a series of furlough days and unpaid holidays. Most non-sworn union employees agreed to take similar unpaid time off. These savings are expected to reduce the City’s 2009 budget deficit by more than $34 million.

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We hope your home's and business's garbage is collected in a timely manner. If it is not, please do not hesitate to call 311!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Aflac benefits

Aflac Rep. Jay Ahmed is a Business Member of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce. Email Jay for some great rates on your benefit plan, jay_ahmed@us.aflac.com

Friday, August 14, 2009

The CPD's annual Gun Buy-Back


The CPD's annual Gun Buy-Back takes place tomorrow between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM at United Church of Rogers Park, 1545 W. Morse Ave., here in Rogers Park.

Sponsored by the Chicago Police CAPS project, last year more than 6,000 weapons were collected.

When you turn in a weapon, you will receive a MasterCard gift card worth $100 for assault weapons; $50 for unspecified guns; and $10 for BB guns. These gift cards go quickly, so be there early!

For more info, call (312) 745-5907.

Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce fully supports this project. There have been many, many reports of gunfire, injuries and deaths in our community and the city during this past year. Too many have involved children shot or killed by stray bullets.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Aflac benefits

Aflac Rep. Jay Ahmed is a Business Member of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce. Email Jay for some great rates on your benefit plan, jay_ahmed@us.aflac.com

Is it affecting your business?






Visit out website: www.rogerspark.cc to learn of our mission and goals for you, the Rogers Park business-owner.

E-mail us at chamberinfo@rogerspark.cc
for more information on how to join Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Aflac benefits

Aflac Rep. Jay Ahmed is a Business Member of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce. Email Jay for some great rates on your benefit plan, jay_ahmed@us.aflac.com

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Rogers Park business: Ennui Cafe

Ennui Cafe
6981 N. Sheridan Road
Chicago, IL 60626

Friday, August 7, 2009

Aflac benefits

Aflac Rep. Jay Ahmed is a Business Member of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce. Email Jay for some great rates on your benefit plan, jay_ahmed@us.aflac.com

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Aflac benefits

Aflac Rep. Jay Ahmed is a Business Member of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce. Email Jay for some great rates on your benefit plan, jay_ahmed@us.aflac.com

National Night Out at Willye B. White Park

Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce supported Quest Network Services at our table.



Target's area was probably the most popular among kids!



Family Matters, led by Daniel McNeil, performed.



Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce president, Bill Morton, being interviewed by Avy Meyers for North Town Community News.



Pamela of Rogers Park Garden Group speaks to a passerby.



Getting ready for another Sack Race!



The view north, from the Chamber's table.


Pamela of Rogers Park Garden Group; Michael Luckenbach, president of Harold Washington Memorial Playlot Park Advisory Council; and Bill Morton, president of Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce enjoy a bit of time together.



David Fagus, 49th Ward Committeeman, and Bill Morton share a few thoughts.



Brain Hurricane! What a great name...and a great job they're doing!






24th District police

More of the crowd, seeking information.



The two-pony van departs. Hope a lot of kids got a ride!



Two bike police, sharing with passersby.



A very diverse crowd of young and older attended this evening, the 26th National Night Out.



Plenty of opportunity for creative hands...



...to become happy hands!



GoGirlGo! is a new program offered at Willye B. White Park.





The streetlights came on, and people began picking up the litter, and musicians prepared for 'Dancin' in the Park'!


We hope these photographs showed you, the great diversity of Rogers Park. We cannot emphasize enough the need for UNITY in our neighborhood.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

National Night Out 2009

Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce supports the Chicago Police Department's sponsorship of National Night Out and will be on hand this evening to answer your questions.


Tuesday August 4, 2009 - 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.Willye B. White Park, 1610 W. Howard Street

Activities for All Ages:

Petting Zoo, Pony Rides, Games!



Register to Vote!

Find Out What Is New in Your Neighborhood!

Learn About Safety Initiatives!

Limbo and Dance Until Dark!

Get Tips on How to Keep Our Neighborhood Safe!

Takeaways . . . And, Much More!

This event is a consolidation of the 24th District CAPS into one location.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Aflac benefits

Aflac Rep. Jay Ahmed is a Business Member of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce. Email Jay for some great rates on your benefit plan, jay_ahmed@us.aflac.com

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Aflac benefits

Aflac Rep. Jay Ahmed is a Business Member of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce. Email Jay for some great rates on your benefit plan, jay_ahmed@us.aflac.com