Thursday, June 02, 2016

NorCo Controller Targets Online "Hotels" For Tax

The Easton College Hill Antique. Is hotel use permitted?
As people become more tech savvy, many earn extra money by temporarily renting out rooms in their house, or in some cases, the entire house, through online agencies like such as 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.

Northampton County Controller Steve Barron has been looking at these rentals, too. In the Easton area alone, over 300 rental properties are advertised on the Internet with nightly rates varying between $10 and $400. They include a "charming stone bungalow overlooking the Delaware in Historic College Hill." You and seven others can spend six nights there for about $2000.

You can also stay at the "College Hill Antique" for $180 a night. For half that, you can stay at The Easton Bohemian, close to The State Theatre and Sette Luna and get breakfast from owner "Ray.".

“Our hotel tax ordinance says any place that is rented that has a bed and 4 walls is considered a taxable hotel room,.” notes Barron. He has fired off a memo asking Executive John Brown to direct his staff to start going after these Internet hotels for taxes.

“This places traditional hotels and bed and breakfast establishments on a more level playing field,' argues Barron. "It is not fair to ask one entity or person to pay and not another, no matter how large or small.”

According to Barron, at an average of $50.00 per night, he believes Northampton County could rake in $108,000 in additional revenue for travel and tourism, assuming they are rented half of the year. But are they? Under our tax code, an Internet hotelier must report his income once he has rented a room for 14 days. Many of these hosts are almost certainly violating local zoning laws, so they keep a low profile.

Philadelphia began noticing these hotels in the wake of papal visit last year, and is putting procedures in place to collect a hotel tax, especially with the Democratic National Convention coming to town. Barron reports that Allegheny, Montgomery and Lehigh County are all researching the matter as well.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Philadelphia needs to specifically address the issue for the Dem's convention?

Gee,I would think Dems would voluntarily pony up.

Anonymous said...

And some wonder why increasing numbers of people hate government and its bloodsucking representatives, like Barron who's never contributed a penny to the economy. It and he just take, take, take. This is a solution searching for a problem. It's a microcosm of Barrin's entire, miserable career in government leeching.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
This has been allowed in allentown under palumpas Ooo Fed Ed's reign of terror by his co-conspieriting campaign contributing slumlordian counterparts that is all part of palumpas party favor consessionairs compatician 50/50 that is currently one of the many putride infections this pos has created, having his boys in blue participate in administrating the collection dept?!
The past chief was part of this back in philly in the days when south street was like allentown is now?!
Re:publican redd

Anonymous said...

This is yet another example of the type of looting that kills the free market. These people tax the producers to death out of unbridled greed while cultivating a non-producing voting constituency. Then they wonder why they are left with communities populated with people whose only viable job skills are criminal activity.

Leave people alone to rent out a room in their home. It would be interesting to scour the last five years of tax returns for these tax watchdogs to see if they are on the up and up. Or follow them around for a day to see what kind of nonsense they engage in. Dollars to donuts these folks are flying their freak flag on our dime. Or hoisting the flag on the Jolly Roger.

Ray Nemeth Sr said...

Just another example of blood sucking politicians who lust after every drop of possible profit, These people pay property taxes, maintain their residence, and should be able to rent to who they want to. So just make it a donation, and make it a religious belief to give shelter to the traveler. This might be the little money that is the only thing between foreclosure.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I see. So that I get this straight, we are supposed to reward lawbreakers who fly below the radar and avoid taxes that all real hotels pay. And an elected official who insists that the law be applied evenly is a "blood sucking politician." Never mind the Internet hotelier who more likely than not is in violation of zoning and is almost certainly paying no business privilege tax. I think i know who the leeches are, and they are not the officials who insist that the law be followed. They are the deadbeats trying to game the system.

Anonymous said...

They're not lawbreakers until some assholes in government pass a law to create a new class of lawbreakers in order to grab more money to waste. Let the hotels advocate for change that keeps government out of their pockets. This a typical scenario where government creates a problem and then creates another to address the first.

Anonymous said...

Over kill.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I think it is a matter of fairness.

Anonymous said...

Under Barron's definition, apartments would also be considered taxable under the hotel tax as they have "four walls and a bed". How about RV rentals? Or dog houses?

Anonymous said...

It's a fair and reasonable tax paid by individuals outside the county and in some cases the state. I have traveled all over the country and in some regions paid a high hotel tax. It didn't stop me as a tourist or traveler.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Under the state law, an apartment or even a dog house is considered a hotel if it is rented to a person for temporary lodging, which I believe is under 30 days.

Ray Nemeth Sr said...

They have a law and a tax on everything, I doubt that most of us can go a week without breaking some law, most that we probably don't know exist. The politicians should be required to eliminate a law, every time they pass a new law, We several hundred years of lawmaking and it has certainly undermined the respect for the law.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, both sides have a point here. Yep, there's a fee or a tax on everything - and it's the legislature's job to set those. And as long as those fees or taxes are on the books, it's the bureaucrat's / executive branch's job to enforce it.

I sure don't want Barron deciding what to enforce and what not to enforce.

Barron is right to enforce the law (which I agree may not be appropriate for this activity, but again that's not his choice), and it's the Legislature's job to ensure that there is appropriate level of taxation and fees.

Hah!!!! I almost kept a straight face about the legislature. But the points remain valid.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

Fairness? That's the dumbest comment if the day. But it's your blog. Fairness has nothing to do with Von Footinmouth's motivation. He stated he's out for a tax grab. That's what career trough sloppers do. When he's not stealing county time by teaching at NCC, he's plotting to steal from private sector folks at every turn. He's a disgusting example of government sleaze. It's a tax grab, just like you quoted him. Perhaps you misunderstood him. Between the riotous lisp and the foot in his mouth, it's understandable.

Anonymous said...

Barron is Bernie's new man-crush. A few years ago, he was Bernie's favorite whipping boy. Barron Von Footimouth, Little Stevie Blunder, Teletubby, fat guy in a kilt, nothing was too nasty or personal. How things have changed! Barron is now one of Bernie's heroes. He can do no wrong. Gone are Barron's days of self-serving bloviating at council meetings, gone are his weasely calls to the EPA about the dreaded asbestos in the courthouse, gone is his cheating of company time by teaching NCC courses during the day, his e-mail hissy-fits, etc. Barron is the golden boy now in Bernie's eyes. Who knows? Maybe in another year Bernie will be dating Mezzacappa! As the world turns...

Anonymous said...

The Hotel Tax itself is bullshit. Another nonsense tax. It is needed to pay government leeches like The tourism bureau and Cunningham and his cronies at the LVEDC. Dump the tax and make PA more attractive to travelers, while at the same time help eliminate do nothing leeches like Cunningham and company who live off the public teat.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Fairness? That's the dumbest comment if the day."

Oh, I can get much dumber than that!

Bernie O'Hare said...

"When he's not stealing county time by teaching at NCC"

And he's not. I busted him on that point. Remember?

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Barron is the golden boy now in Bernie's eyes."

Hey It's not my fault that Brown managed to make him look good. In reality, Steve was a youngster when he was first elected and has matured over the years. He does not make the mistakes he used to make and for which I used to hammer him with glee. But he still does bloviate too much, and I probably should take him to task more often on that point.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"In my opinion, both sides have a point here."

Agreed. I discussed this at length with Agent 99 today and she made some very valid points.

It is highly unlikely that these online hotels are rented out half the year, as Baron suggests, or that the room rental rate is even $50. It is probably just a few days out of the year. Do we want to send government officials chasing after a homeowner who rents out a room ten nights a year for $10? I think that is a government waste.

The solution is to adopt a policy similar to how the government treats it for income tax purposes. If a person rents out a room or a home for less than 14 nights per year, there should be no tax. It should only apply to those who are making a concerted effort to earn money from the practice. Agent 99 would make it 30 days. There is no reason to go after someone for 40 cents. But there is good reason to go after someone who is renting out a bungalow on the Delaware on a regular basis.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"The Hotel Tax itself is bullshit. Another nonsense tax. It is needed to pay government leeches like The tourism bureau and Cunningham and his cronies at the LVEDC. Dump the tax and make PA more attractive to travelers, while at the same time help eliminate do nothing leeches like Cunningham and company who live off the public teat."

That, at least, is a logical and consistent argument. What I can't respect is an argument that suggests the law should not be tried evenly.

Anonymous said...

Will Baron Von Footinmouth personally threaten homeowners and stomp on their flowers? It's how he rolls, you know. It seems like only yesterday when Gentleman John Stoffa finally lost his patience and called this hemorrhoid out for doing just that.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, agree with yours and Agent 99's thoughts. I'm with her, I'd go 30 days, the cost of any compliance initiative below that just isn't worth it.

Also agree - laws should be enforced evenly. If you dislike the law, take it to your legislator, but ignoring it is not an option.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

Tax the hell out of the hotels, motels and "extended stays" unless they are directly associated with a major attraction like the casino. The roach motels around here are nothing more than drug dens and whore houses. Why penalize people for providing a bed to sleep in where 20 tricks were not turned the day before.

Patriot2 said...

Airbnb competes directly with hotels & the traveler should pay the same state & local taxes that hotels are forced to collect from their overnight guests. Bernie is right on this one to support Barron.

Anonymous said...

Gentleman John Stoffa? You mean that old vindictive guy that wanted to dump Gracedale?

Anonymous said...

Gracedale will always loose money.

Anonymous said...

Gracedale will always be there to protect the most vulnerable members of society.