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Bed tax collections reach record high

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Thanks to improved collection methods, payment of past due accounts and an increase in tourism, resort tax collections in Manatee County for fiscal year 2010-11 set a record. The tax office reports that $7.104 million was collected for 2010-11, representing a seven percent increase from the previous record of $6.64 million set a year earlier.

The resort tax is the 5 percent assessed on homes, condos, duplex units or hotel-motel rooms that are rented for six months or less. The tax is included in the guest’s bill and then paid monthly by the accommodation or rental owner to the tax office.

Susan Sinquefield of the resort tax collections division of the Manatee County Tax Collector’s Office said collections for September 2011, the last month of the fiscal year, were $419,608, a 32.5 percent increase from the $316,626 reported in September 2010.

Manatee County Tax Collector Ken Burton said September’s increase was the ninth straight month that collections of the resort tax — often called the bed tax — have rose.

Although Manatee County tourism is up about 5 percent compared with the same month last year, Sinquefield said resort tax collections exceed that amount because investigators have been targeting property owners and rental managers who have failed to comply with the requirements and also have been collecting monies owed from past months.

In addition to better collection methods, Burton has installed a tax fraud hotline that allows someone to report a possible resort tax fraud and remain anonymous.

“The system has worked quite well and we’ve been able to collect quite a bit of past-due revenue,” Sinquefield said.

Additionally, resort tax investigators work with officials of the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s Office to target tax cheaters and homestead exemption fraud, Sinquefield said.

Anna Maria Island and the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key together bring in about 62 percent of all resort tax revenue each year, according to the annual resort tax collection figures.

For October 2011, the first month of the new budget year, Sinquefield reported resort tax collections at $348,421. That was an increase of 21.2 percent from October 2010, when $287,379 was collected.

Of the $348,421 received in October this year, 57.1 percent ($199,222) was collected from Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key combined.

In September, Island and Longboat Key collections together totaled $249,709, or 60 percent of the $419,608 total resort tax revenue.

Holmes Beach was the No. 1 municipality for resort tax revenue, collecting $108,716 in September — 25.9 percent of all collections.

In October 2011, Holmes Beach resort tax collections totaled $87,829, or 25.2 percent of all bed tax revenue.

Revenue from the resort tax is used to fund the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau marketing budget along with beach renourishments projects on Anna Maria Island and other projects in the area. The resort tax fund is controlled by the county commission and the BACVB, Sinquefield said.

The next major Island beach renourishment project is planned for 2015-16, although some smaller renourishment projects may occur before the Islandwide event. Some renourishment is under way on Coquina Beach.

Tourism figures for September and October have not yet been released by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Through August 2011, tourist rentals were up 5 percent when compared with the same period in 2010.

Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce president Mary Ann Brockman said she was confident, after seeing the bed tax increase, the number of visitors to the area surveyed by the BACVB would also show a jump when those figures are released.

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