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Expect June boom for tourism

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

If resort tax collections are any indication — and they have been for the past 16 months — area tourism in June took a big jump from June 2011.

The Manatee County Tax Collector’s resort tax division reported collections in July — the tax is collected one month in arrears — of $739,150, a 28 percent increase from the $577,624 collected for the same month in 2011.

The resort tax — often called the bed tax — is officially known as the Manatee County tourism development tax and is the 5 percent charged on any rental accommodation of six months or less.

For 15 of the past 16 months, area tourism has increased from 5 percent to 15 percent monthly, while resort tax collections have risen more than 20 percent for the same period.

June collections brought the total resort tax collected for fiscal year 2011-12 to $6.933 million. With three more months of collections remaining in the fiscal year, it’s a sure bet collections will surpass the previous record of $7.1 million set in fiscal year 2010-11.

The collections have steadily increased since the resort tax collections division became pro-active in searching for owners or managers of vacation rentals who were not paying the resort tax, did not have a county license and/or were not registered with the Florida Department of Business Regulation.

Sue Sinquefield of the resort tax collections division said people who tried to beat the system found they not only must pay the past due amount when caught, but the cost of a county license and a Florida registration certificate.

Agents from the office routinely target known or suspected areas where property owners or accommodation managers may not be collecting the tax, or collecting taxes and not reporting to the tax office, Sinquefield added.

“I think the word is getting out that offenders will be caught. Of course, it’s also helped collections that tourism has been increasing the past two years.”

Sinquefield said her office also reports homeowners who rent their property in spite of receiving a homestead exemption to the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s Office for action.

Sinquefield praised code enforcement officers and anonymous tipsters for providing information on potential violators.

Holmes Beach led both unincorporated Manatee County and other municipalities in June collections with $265,900. Manatee County brought in $200,000, Longboat Key collected $98,250, Anna Maria had $79,800 and Bradenton Beach collected $70,000 in resort taxes for June 2012.

Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key combined to bring in 69 percent of the resort tax collections in June 2012. On average, the barrier islands collect about 60 percent of the resort tax for the county.

The resort tax is used to fund the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the convention center, the Crosley Mansion and the county’s share of beach renourishment projects, among other projects and attractions.

At the Manatee County Tourist Development Council meeting Aug. 20, Research Data Services Inc. of Tampa reported tourism occupancy to the area rose 7.5 percent in June 2012 as compared to June 2011 figures.

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