Holmes Beach leads cities in resort taxes paid

With monthly Manatee County resort tax collections surpassing $1 million for the first time ever in February, it also was a record month for resort tax collections in Holmes Beach.

The resort tax — often called the bed tax and known officially as the Manatee County Tourism Development tax — is the 5 percent charged by accommodation owners and managers on Manatee County rentals of six months or less. The tax is due the county in the month following the rental.

For February collections, Holmes Beach accounted for a record $266,627, or 25.5 percent of the $1.047 million total resort tax collections.

The unincorporated area of Manatee County led the collection points with $362,619, or 34.6 percent of the total.

For Manatee County municipalities, Longboat Key was second in collections with $175,266, while Anna Maria had $107,733 in resort tax and Bradenton Beach contributed $88,908.

Collectively, Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key provided $638,574 — 61 percent — of the $1.047 million total, or 61 percent all resort tax paid. On an annual average, the Island and Longboat key provide about 60 percent of the resort tax collected.

Sue Sinquefield of the Manatee County Tax Collector’s resort tax division credited the record collection amount to aggressive work by field agents in finding vacation property owners who had been dodging the tax, and word-of-mouth that agents were on the lookout for tax dodgers.

Her department often conducts “sweeps” of areas where it suspects unlicensed properties are rented to vacationers.

“It wasn’t our goal to set a record in February, but the agents really stepped up their work and did an amazing job,” Sinquefield said.

She anticipates March collections will be even higher than February, and Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce president Mary Ann Brockman agrees.

“We say it every year, that this is the busiest ever, but this year really was the busiest I’ve ever seen. I’ve heard that from so many of our members, that March was just incredible, the best ever, for business,” she said.

The $1.047 million in resort tax collections was a gain of 24.7 percent from February 2011, when $857,000 was paid.

In terms of economic spending, the $1.047 million in resort tax represents $20.94 million spent on accommodations in Manatee County in February. For overall spending in the area in February, the record in accommodation spending equates to about $72.2 million in tourism spending for the month, according to previous surveys by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The BACVB receives its tourist arrival figures and economic spending reports from Research Data Services Inc. of Tampa, but the figures are delivered to the BACVB months after tax numbers are announced. Tourism figures for January 2012 have yet to be released by RDS.

Based on previous visitor reports compared with resort tax collections, tourism increases are about half of the resort tax collections increases. With resort tax collections up almost 25 percent in February, Brockman said she wouldn’t be surprised if February tourism was up 12 percent or more from the same month last year.

For the last month reported by RDS — December 2011 — tourism was up 10.7 percent from the previous December.

“And I fully expect March tourism also to be ahead of last year,” Brockman concluded.

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