Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tulare County supervisors to respond to criticism over transient occupancy tax

Tulare County supervisors Tuesday are expected to approve a response to a series of Tulare County Grand Jury recommendations related to the county's transient occupancy tax.

That tax is levied for rented rooms in homes, hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts as well as seasonal rentals of homes and cabins.

In an interim report issued in December, the Grand Jury reported that confusion over portions of the tax ordinance resulted in some property owners not charging the tax to guests.

A private contractor hired by the county collected $34,622 in delinquent taxes, fees and penalties, according to the report. Ambiguity-related appeals to the Board of Supervisors resulted in the loss of about $9,000 in taxes, it noted.

"Vagueness in the county's TOT ordinance has resulted in a lack of accountability of some owner/agents ... causing the County to incur a loss of tax revenue," the Grand Jury concluded.

Recommendations included rewriting part of the ordinance using clear language.

If supervisors approve the four-page response Tuesday, they will agree with most of the Grand Jury's points and note that a revision of the transient occupancy tax ordinance is being developed.

A revised draft of the ordinance includes a requirement that taxes would be charged to guests at properties that rent for 15 or more days a year, including rooms rented for less than a day, said Rita Woodard, the county's treasurer/tax collector.

But the matter was pulled from the board agenda recently after officials learned that online hotel-booking agencies had challenged in court whether they must pay similar taxes in Los Angeles and San Francisco counties.

Woodard said county-ordinance revisions specify that the tax would apply to online booking services. A new draft of the ordinance will be presented to the board April 13.


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