Friday, June 03, 2016

Will Hotel Tax Legitimize Illegal Online Hotel?

Lafayette Inn
Yesterday, I told you that Northampton County Controller Steve Barron has suggested taxing people who offer "hotel" stays at their house through online agencies like Airbnb, HomeAway, FlipKey, Trip Advisor and VRBO. In the Easton area alone, 134 rental properties are listed with nightly rates varying between $10 and $400. But does this legitimize outfits that are flying under the radar and ignoring code inspections as well as zoning and planning laws? This was the concern raised at last night's meeting of Northampton County Council

Barron was uncharacteristically absent, and later explained that he was attending a Girl Scout ceremony for one of his daughters. .

Mike Stershic, President of DiscoverLV, the area's tourism agency, agrees with Barron that these rentals are subject to both state and local hotel and sales taxes. But he raised the question, one repeated by others, whether imposing a tax "legitimizes them as a business activity" even though they have failed to go through the planning, zoning, parking, code inspections and other health and safety issues that are addressed by legitimate hotels.

Laura Di Liello, a principal at the Lafayette Inn, is "thrilled" that someone has finally noticed "that a great deal of overnight lodging is taking place for which no tax is being collected." In her opinion, most of these properties operate illegally. She told Council these Ubers of the hospitality world "should be held to the same standards as professional innkeepers' with respect to hotel tax, state sales tax,. liability insurance, and health and building inspections. But she argues that "[i]f the County begins to accept lodging tax from these property owners without insuring that they meet all local, county and state requirements, you would be granting them validity and giving the impression that they're operating legally."

She noted that many counties and cities have entered into agreements in which Airbnb or some other online referral agency collects hotel tax. The county gets revenue, but no information about who the hosts are or where located. "This allows those properties to continue to operate illegally and thus necessarily compromise public health, safety and welfare. She asked Council for a "fair and level playing field that supports small businesses in our community."

"If they are breaking the law, they should be put out of business," said Bob Werner, whose Easton district includes the unregistered Easton Bohemian and Easton College Hill Antique.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Stershic is another one of these lifelong government leeches that depends on Hotel taxes. These guys do nothing and are shameless at their trough feeding ways. He walks around like some kind of celebrity for taking taxpayer money to have brochures printed.

What a fraud.

Anonymous said...

Here we go, bring the full weight of the bloated bureaucracy upon people renting rooms in their homes. Taxation is the worst kind of looting. And the "level playing field" is a euphemism for shared misery.


Patriot2 said...

Put yourself in the shoes of f the Lafayette Inn playing by all the rules & collecting state taxes to lower your state tax bill & then losing business every night to some renegade not subject to any of the costs associated with running a business & not collecting taxes. Blatantly unfair competition!!!

Anonymous said...

"Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society." Oliver Wendsll Holmes

7:27 please state how the government should raise revenue to provide for your safety, health and welfare (well being)

Patriot2 said...

These homes are now operating as a business & need to be inspected & should also have to be in a business zoned district to operate. How many are in Residentially zoned distticts?

Anonymous said...

@ 7:40 I have no problem paying taxes for a civilized society; however, when more and more taxes are taken out of my pocket by politicians who are corrupt, i do have a problem.

Look at Bernie's thread the other day with all of the charges/allegations against politicians across the state with the comment that this state may be more the most corrupt in the nation. And hard working individuals trying to hustle for a buck should fork more cash over to them? please.

Patriot2 said...

Bottom line is you either get the tax removed for everyone or everyone pays the tax. This reminds me of having illegal immigrants working in US & paying no taxes while sending the money earned back to Mexico!!!

Anonymous said...

We have layer upon layer of taxation. If a playing field is to be leveled then grant tax forgiveness to the hotels. Advocating for an expansion of taxation as a measure of fairness is absurd. Fair is a place to ride rides, eat cotton candy, and step in monkey poop.

A hotel already pays property taxes. An additional layer of taxation for renting a room is looting. The profit derived by the owner of the hotel is also taxed. The notion that the government should provide for my safety, health, and welfare is troubling. These are things that I provide for myself and my family.

The amount that an average producer pays in taxes is staggering when analyzing the return on investment. The money taken from me is spent by people conditioning a constituency to be dependent upon their safety, health, and welfare as provided by government.

As a taxpayers we are burdened with paying for luxuries for non-producers. Our "poverty level" is significantly higher than most of the world. The people who work for a living are outnumbered by the people who vote for a living. In time this will bring about further societal decline.

Anonymous said...

Corruption in government bothers me as well and is an unfortunate part of our democracy. It goes back a long way "Teapot Dome" as an example. I am also bothered by the unfortunate corruption in the capitalist society of "Greed is Good"

Anonymous said...

How come everyone believes in free trade when it comes to china imports, but not for anything else. this is a private transaction that does not need government involvement. Or do they now need to hire more enforcers, Will we need to register visitors, even if it is grandmother from Florida, Will we have to fill out exemption paperwork for relatives staying at our house, How about sleepovers for the kids. What happens when the neighbors who hate you report you for unlawful visitors.? These people should get a life and get a real job.

Patriot2 said...

These are not relatives & grandparents but true overnight customers paying for a room just like a hotel. I don't like taxes either but if I have to pay so should everyone else. Get a grip on reality. This is an underground market just like UBER that s not playing by the same rules that hotel owners have to play by who are audited annually by county & State.

Anonymous said...

People who hold yard sales are competing with legitimate, tax paying, retailers too. Do you want them to play by the same rules too? Should they get a business license, workmen's comp insurance, etc., etc., etc?

How about babysitters? When that 15 year old neighbor girl comes over to your house to babysit, she's competing against legitimate day care providers who require background clearances, licenses, etc. Should we make that girl looking to make a few bucks apply for all of those things too?

How about when youth organizations have car washes? They are competing against legitimate, tax paying car wash establishments too. Maybe the local boy scout troop should need a business license, hire attorneys to do its non-profit documentation, get workmen's comp for all of the people working, oh, and make them pay minimum wage for the "employees" washing the cars.

How about when people come over for Christmas and bring presents? Do you need to fill out gift tax forms? Are they exchanging presents for food which the host and hostess are preparing?

You can go on with this forever and ever and ever and ever. If some dude is trying to help pay the bills and rents out a room in his house, who the hell cares? Oh, I know. People who have no problem raising taxes to support pensions for government employees. The more money they can bring in, the higher wages and pensions they can charge the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

We need less government regulation, not more, America has become soft and weak, there was a time when tarring and feathering was appropriate for overbearing bureaucrats, who walk around the peacock in the other article.

Anonymous said...

Sure. Greed is good right.

Anonymous said...

If the legislation is currently written to collect the tax from ANYBODY renting a room, then by all means collect the tax. The argument that this somehow "legitimizes" the rental as a business is absurd. I'm pretty sure the IRS doesn't concern themselves with whether you have a business license when they collect their taxes.

That said, if the legislation doesn't specifically mention such places, then they're out of luck. South Whitehall has an amusement tax so that they can soak Dorney Park. I'm pretty sure that they don't apply it to playgrounds. And don't get me started about the idiot municipalities that try to force kids into paying for business licenses for the corner lemonade stand.

Absent home stays already being specifically included for the hotel tax, I don't think you can compare the two types of rentals. The customer knows what they're getting with one (hotel rental), and what they're not getting with the other route. Really no comparison.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it....government has come to believe it is entitled to a piece of every economic transaction of any kind. It makes the Mafia look like Boy Scouts.

Patriot2 said...

Give me a break as Airbnb is a legitimate business threat to the Lafayette Inn & other hotels across the country. You can't just turn your head and let them have a competitive advantage.

Anonymous said...

This is not about taxes to pay for vital services. This is about taxes used to prop up semi-governmental agencies like Tourism and LVEDC with taxpayer funded jobs. These six figure guys could disappear from the public trough tomorrow and no one would even notice.

They are self perpetuating entities that are just there to get a check and hype themselves.

So again, stop braying on about "vital services". This is just another government glad-handing subsidization.

Anonymous said...

Who are the benefactors of the hotel tax in Lehigh and Northampton Counties? Lehigh County bill is rigidly stated for a regional tourism agency. I suppose that is DiscoverLV in Bethlehem. It appears LVEDC is also a benefactor via a pass though fromantic DiscoverLV or direct. Does Northampton County provide comparable dollars to both these agencies. Does anyone revenue go to the LV Chamber? Trying to understand how the region benefits from this tax.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The hotel tax funds DiscoverLV, which in turn funds LVEDC. The Chamber was the beneficiary of a grant at one time for Main Street programs.

Anonymous said...

Patriot 2---there is no such thing as level playing field!

When municipalities build million dollar recreation facilities that compete with privately owned facilities, how is that a level playing field? When government paid economic development employees hustle real estate deals out of the mouths of Realtors who must spend money to become licensed by the state and follow a host of other rules and regulations, how is that fair?

You must be a hotel owner!! LOL

There shouldn't be a hotel tax to begin with--then we wouldn't even be having this discussion!

Anonymous said...

We can't allow people to do what they want with their own property? Obviously, the properties referenced aren't usually used for the purposes of putting up people in a "hotel" type venue.

IMHO - we shouldn't be infringing on private property rights when, in some areas, you may be paying more in property tax than in hotel tax! Didn't Mr. Barron think of this? In the first place, I don't believe we should be taxing private property. However, if we are going to -- shouldn't we get the most bang for our buck? It defies common sense to suggest otherwise. Just leave it as it is.

Anonymous said...

Bernie
First of all I I I have first hand experiance with portnoff collecting a rooming house fee from 1969 till the early 2000's that was a single family home the entire time?! ($
Right now said single family homes are elegally converted in not only multi home dwellings but also rooming houses that fall under palumpas party favor consessionair comPETitors 50/50?! ($ Than there are the one bedroom uninhabitable blight tenament that are allowed under FedEd and gangs home school charter to have two and three families as occupants because blighton cohen esq is the protector of these campaign contribitors donors that the hovels have been raided by police many of times with the collections of said goods and wares that are allow to be sold from for the terrorizing of homeowners?! ($
This would fall unde the catigory of the demis of quality of life issue promised as positive progress never to even make it close to even the lowest standirt of quality life in a 3rd world nation?! ($ The administration as a whole is touching in the degredation of the last part of the 5th constitution, the right to have a peacful time in the prospect of home ownership for single families?! ($
Re:publican redd

Bernie O'Hare said...

9:53, You are being internally inconsistent. In other words, illogical. I can understand the argument that there should be no taxes at all. I can understand the argument that there should be noo property taxes. But what is illogical is to say that we should leave a broken and unfair system in place, in which a few bandits unfairly complete against hardworking small businesses who are trying to follow the rules and be above board. I am also, to be frank, deeply concerned about public health, safety and welfare at some of these online hotels. Some of them may very well be fire traps, but these owners are flying below the radar, hoping to avoid detection.

Anonymous said...

Buyer beware. Dump the Hotel tax. It only benefits political crony hanger-ons that have no economic significance to the area. Time to cut thee worthless taxpayer funded trough feeders loose.

County Council should pass a Resolution asking Harrisburg to dump the Hotel tax. If the tea Party Republicans on County council aren't total frauds(remember the county tax increase their first year) They will embrace this idea od less unneeded taxes on business.

Anonymous said...

The answer to your first question is no. Can I start a junkyard next to your house? How about a prison? One of the biggest misconceptions in our democracy is that rights and freedoms are absolute, They are not. Did you take American Government in high school?

Patriot2 said...

The hotel tax is not a tax on a business but a tax on overnight guests staying in the Lehigh Valley. The customer pays the tax & it is the businesses responsibility to collect it & pass on to the county. I can't argue that the tax should go away but if it doesn't then these Airbnb hoteliers need to do the same thing that the Lafayette Inn & other hotels must do.

Anonymous said...

4:12 PM hit the nail on the head. let the amazing operations(sarc) figure out a way to make their own revenue. Quote .." These six figure guys could disappear from the public trough tomorrow and no one would even notice." Well isn't that the truth..
this is all about figuring out a way to pay guys , who negotiate deals with the tax payers cash. more govt games. this is corp cronyism at its finest. do for me and i will do for you..that is, with money that isn't mine of course. you need 10 years of no tax , sure...come on in and we can give that away and make our citizens pay more or do with out certain services...if these companies like LVEDC , the chamber, and DiscoverLV are involved, you can bet so are the kick backs...ala niz ville..it is no wonder that former politicians are heavily involved.they are not involved bc they get it it. they are involved bc they know how to sell influence.

Anonymous said...

Bernie Bernie,
Fire traps buy design, ask an electrical engineer about 14/2 or 14/3 being used for electrical heat sources and for that matter is it federal standirts to use a more thicker wire in this day and age of recycled wiring malfunctions by design too, only in said hovels owned and operated by the same circus sticks that are fictitious LLC's cockted cockblock from thin air, very thin?!($
We used to have an old saying in the trade, thin is in thick your a dick, just a trade secret in future SICuring of work?!($:)
Re:publican redd
Forgot to mention the code officials that allow this to fly?!
Think that on got em to get got?!($