It has come to my attention that the Essex County supervisors are considering raising the county occupancy (bed) tax by 1 to 2 percent on the hotels and visitors to our area! Instead of penalizing the people who wish to stay in our local lodging properties, the county should, as promised long ago, go after the "private rentals" that should legally be paying both the state sales tax and county bed tax, and are not!
New York state Sales Tax Law states: Any person/agency that rents a room, cottage, condo or house for less then one week (seven nights) and/or provides services - i.e., cleaning services, packages, discounted lift tickets, etc. - are by law supposed to collect both the state sales tax of 7.75 percent and the county "bed" tax of 3 percent. They are not doing this, and the county is letting them get away with it. Wouldn't we all like to not have to pay our taxes, and get away with it!
Instead of putting an additional burden on legally taxpaying businesses, why doesn't the county go after and collect the taxes that are due from private rentals? I and many other lodging property owners have asked repeatedly the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau - which receives all of the bed tax - the town of North Elba and the village of Lake Placid to please enforce the law. Some of us even sent letters to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, and nothing has been done. These private rentals benefit monetarily from the advertising that is done for the area, and all the services the towns, villages and county provide their guests, but pay nothing for it. This is not fair to all the hotels, motels and B&Bs that do pay all of their taxes, and it is certainly not fair to the citizens of this county who are looking at a tax hike.
Essex County could simply put a notice in with every property tax bill that gets sent out this January, explaining the law and telling anyone that this would apply to how they can go about complying with the law. The county could also hire a bill/tax collector for just this purpose, and their pay would come from a percentage of the tax they collect and identify as being due. Once the county has these properties identified, it can then follow all legal channels to collect the tax that is due.
The idea of raising more taxes on people wishing to come to the area is wrong. There are lots of other places people can go to vacation! If the county would pursue the collection of taxes due by private rentals, not only would it have a lot more money for advertising/tourism, but it would also have more money in its general fund from the portion of tax that comes back to the county from the state sales tax! This would help all taxpayers in the county! I sincerely hope the county supervisors will take another look at this and not raise the current bed tax any higher. The lodging industry was promised by the county and Visitors Bureau that the occupancy tax would go no higher the 3 percent in order to get their support for the current bed tax. Are you now going to vote against this promise? Remember, this tax has a sunset clause and could be rescinded entirely! Meaning, no bed tax!
Denise Dramm lives in Lake Placid and owns Placid Bay Inn there.