Local counties and travel websites await bed tax appeal ruling
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Priceline and Expedia can save you money, but they're costing local counties millions.
When Barry Kemna used an online travel company to book his stay at Ponte Vedra Beach's Hilton Garden Inn, the guest from Dallas certainly didn't feel he was ripping off anyone.
But Florida counties may be getting cheated out of tax revenue every time someone books through websites like Expedia or Travelocity.
"We book rooms that way. We get them in advance. It saves me about half the price everywhere we go," said Kemna.
Seventeen Florida counties including St. Johns, Alachua and Nassau are hoping a state appeals court reverses a judge's 2012 ruling which allows travel websites to book hotel rooms at low rates, then pay taxes on those discount rates. But what a guest actually shells out for the room is significantly higher.
St Johns Tourist Development Council argues that the difference between the two prices is lost tax money. Revenues on this so-called bed tax may be used for things like shoreline maintenance, tourism promotion and construction.
The travel sites argue they should pay taxes only on the price they paid for the room. They claim the higher rate paid by the guest accounts for a service fee.
Both sides are awaiting a ruling by a state appeals court which heard the case last week.
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