Florida Supreme Court Rules Online Travel Companies' Surcharges Aren't Taxable
The Florida Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that extra fees charged to customers who book hotel rooms with online travel companies aren't taxable, according to the Associated Press.
In a 5-2 decision, the court agreed with companies like Expedia, Hotels.com and Travelocity, therefore ruling against the handful of Florida counties that sued those and other companies "arguing that the full price they charge customers should be subject to local bed taxes," per the AP.
Travel Technology Association spokesman Philip Minardi called the decision "great news for Florida's No. 1 industry."
On the flip side, Alachua County tourism director John Pricher told the AP that he and others felt the "gap" between the price an online travel company pays for a hotel room and the price it sells it to a customer for "should be closed."
Pricher added that if the counties had more tax dollars coming in and were aware of it, it would, "open up some different things we could do."
Pointing out that 5 million Florida hotel nights are booked through online travel companies annually, Minardi noted that potential repercussions would more than likely have been felt within the state.
"Over 20 percent of those room nights were booked by Florida residents in Florida hotels. If this had gone through, it wouldn’t have been just a new tax for outsiders coming to Florida as a destination," said Minardi via the AP.
In all, 17 Florida counties signed onto the lawsuit. They were Leon, Flagler, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas, Polk, Alachua, Nassau, Okaloosa, Seminole, Wakulla, St. Johns, Escambia, Charlotte, Walton, Hillsborough and Pasco. In addition to Expedia, Hotels.com and Travelocity, online travel companies like Hotwire, Orbitz and Priceline.com were named in the lawsuit.
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