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Consumers report paying beverage tax despite judge’s order

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EDGEWATER -- The Cook County beverage tax was put on hold by a judge before it could take effect Friday, but WGN found some places are still collecting the tax in violation of the order.

At the Edgewater McDonalds on Broadway, Gerry Farinas says he noticed something as he glanced at the receipt for his usual morning Diet Coke July 1. An extra fee was included in the price.

"I got charged the surcharge," Farinas said, pointing to a 23-cent surcharge included in the price.

The surcharge, dubbed the “pop tax” by some, was approved in November by the Cook County Commission.  Its intent is to charge a penny per ounce on hundreds of sweetened drinks sold in Cook County starting July 1.

“I thought there was an injunction and that this tax would not be charged and they kind of waved me off,” Farinas said.

But he was right. On Friday, a Cook County judge ordered the tax be put on hold until at least July 12, but even Sunday morning, when he went back to the same store in Edgewater,  he was charged again.

"This time I got a refund, but I had to ask for it," he said. "So I’m guessing that a lot of people in that line behind me got charged the tax and didn’t even realize it."

WGN looked into it, going to the store hours after he reported he was charged the tax a second time, and the surcharge was gone. A manager said off-camera that the system had automatically added the tax, and it was manually taken out Sunday.

Visiting seven other local stores, including McDonalds, Burger King, and gas stations, six were in compliance but a Subway on Granville collected the tax.  The clerk inside didn’t know about the judge’s order, and the owner wasn’t available to talk.

"I think they’ve been collecting this tax and people don’t know," Farinas said. "They don’t  look at the receipts carefully enough, and don’t realize that a lot of them have been charged this pop tax."

Lesson learned: pay attention to what you pay, and check your receipts.  Ask for a refund if you notice you're being charged the tax.

Have you been charged the tax? Take a picture of your receipt and send it to us by submitting a photo below- be sure to let us know where you took it.