The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

7 November 2004

Horsing around with tax rates

The hotel-room tax in Oklahoma City was fixed at 2 percent in 1972, and has been there ever since. On the 14th of December, the city will hold an election to increase it to 5.5 percent, largely to pay for improvements to livestock and horse facilities at State Fair Park.

In announcing the election in the CityNews flyer in November utility bills, the city introduces this array of numbers:

The hotel tax has been at the current 2% rate for more than 32 years. Even at 5.5%, Oklahoma City's hotel tax would still be far below most other cities, including our main Texas competitors. Dallas, for example, has a 13% hotel tax, Fort Worth's is 15% and the San Antonio hotel tax is almost 17%.

A bikini of a paragraph, this is: what it reveals is interesting, but what it conceals is vital. What you're not being told here is that in addition to that measly two percent, travelers are being hit with the full sales-tax package, state, county where applicable, and city; lodging in Oklahoma City is ultimately taxed at a rate of 10.375 percent. I grabbed my handy Choice Hotels Directory, which got some heavy use this summer, and sure enough, most of the inns in the city are listed at that tax rate, give or take some rounding somewhere.

So if this measure passes, tourists will be forking over 13.875 cents in tax for every dollar of room rate. This is still lower than Fort Worth or San Antonio, but the city is making it seem like visitors have been getting the screaming deal of the century here, which of course they haven't. Meanwhile, the City of New York makes do on a mere 13.625% plus two bucks a day.

I'll still probably vote for the increase — we really do need to spruce up the horse facilities around here — but somebody at City Hall should have taken the time to give that tax comparison some actual legitimacy.

Posted at 4:21 PM to City Scene

Here in NJ it is, if possible, even more complicated.

In addition to a state sales tax of 6% the state imposed a hotel/motel tax of 7% from Aug 03 to July 04 after which it was reduced to 5%. The state allowed municipalities to apply a local tax of 1% from Aug 03 to July 04 after which they could raise it to 3% (essentially taking over the 2% state reduction).

But there is more: some towns already had local hotel/motel taxes in place and there the state tax was the difference between the local rate and 7%...

Before I got into office in Jan 04 the town council imposed the 1% local tax option. Thus far we have not chosen to bump it to 3% although we are allowed to. I am still waiting for a report from our CFO as to how much we actually collect and how much it costs to collect it. The town has a grand total of 5 hotels and about 1,000 rooms. We have no rodeos or state fairs within the municipal boundaries... as far as I know.

Posted by: The Prop at 7:19 AM on 8 November 2004