Illinois is frequently in the headlines for using bundles of tax breaks, grants, and loans to lure companies from other states, or what we call “interstate job piracy.” Since the 2010s, companies like Amazon and Rivian (the electric vehicle company that Amazon contracted in 2019 to produce 100,000 delivery vans) have found a home in Illinois after securing copious amounts of subsidies. Local governments rely on tax increment financing (TIF) districts to fund development: Chicago, for example, has more TIF districts than the next 10 populated cities combined.
Illinois’ incentive programs are administered by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). Most involve tax breaks. The costliest by far is the Economic Development of a Growing Economy (EDGE) Tax Credit. The state also has tax subsidies for film productions and data center purchases.
Illinois is a pioneer in online disclosure, earning top rank in our 2007 and 2010 transparency reports. The DCEO maintains a database of incentives containing annual progress reports for each active project. While these reports supply a decent amount of information, the fact that each PDF covers only one project in one year makes analysis across multiple programs and multiple years cumbersome. The Illinois Film Production Services Tax Credit is not disclosed at all despite costing the state tens of millions a year.
The State Comptroller’s office publishes a detailed tax expenditure report each year with a section on economic development tax incentives where costs are broken down by program and type of tax (property, sales, income, etc.). The Annual Comprehensive Financial Reports, by contrast, do not contain much information on tax abatements as required by Statement No. 77. A small percentage of Illinois’ multitudinous local jurisdictions report tax abatements, resulting in data that is substantial albeit incomplete.
Even though Illinois has created what is called the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, it inexplicably does not evaluate incentive programs. The closest thing it did was a 2014 publication that provides an overview of the programs, but which can no longer be found online.