County Leaders Clash Over Bed Tax Draft Plan

By: Shawn Magrath

NORWICH – County lawmakers are mulling over a draft plan to collect an additional tax on hotel rooms in Chenango County and to hold hotel owners who don't pay accountable.

The idea of the labeled “bed tax” was first floated in February when the County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution requesting that New York approve home rule legislation that would enact the local tax. The proposal passed both houses of the state legislature in June and is now waiting for the governor's signature.

“This is, since I've been here, the first local tax law we've entertained passing,” County Attorney Allan Gordon said when presenting the draft plan to members of the Chenango County Finance Committee earlier this month. “All our other tax laws are state derived. This is one that the state doesn't collect from us.”

Barring nonprofits and municipalities, the draft implements a 4 percent tax on nearly every lodging enterprise, including hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, tourist homes, vacation rentals, cottages, cabins and condominiums.

It also exempts people of permanent residence – those whose occupancy lasts 90 days or longer.

The plan, explained Gordon, executes the bed tax in the same fashion as a sales tax. Business owners start by filing a one-page registration certificate with the county treasurer's office. Once approved, it then becomes the owner's responsibility to file quarterly returns.

The draft also breaks down the options county executives have to file litigation against those who don't pay. It gives right to the county to take hotel operators to court or place a lien against the property of those who don't comply (the more likely option, said Gordon). Late payments are subject to a penalty of 10 percent of the amount of tax due, plus a 1.5 percent interest rate for each month thereafter.

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