Vacation rental property signs line Spring Avenue in Anna Maria as island accommodation managers prepare for a busy summer tourist season. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin
For the 24th time in the past 25 months, resort tax collections by the Manatee County Tax Collector’s Office have set a new monthly record compared with the same month the previous year.
Collections this year are on pace to eclipse last year’s record collection amount of $8.1 million.
The resort tax, also called the bed tax, is the 5 percent Manatee County charges on accommodation rentals of six months or less.
As resort tax collections continue setting records, the collections have corresponded to increasing tourism. The Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau reported tourism to the area up 6.5 percent for the first four months of 2013 compared with the same months in 2012. By comparison, resort tax collections for the first five months of 2013 are up 9.7 percent compared with that same period in 2012.
Collections for April 2013 totaled $771,368, according to information available online at the Manatee County Tax Collectors website.
That was a modest 1.4 percent increase from collections in April 2012, but still pushed the total collected for the first seven months of the 2012-13 fiscal year to $5.812 million, well ahead of the $5,296 million collected during the first seven months of fiscal year 2011-12.
Total resort tax collections for 2011-12 were $8.1 million, a record-setting year and more than $1 million ahead of the previous record of $7.01 million set in fiscal year 2010-11.
If the next five months maintain the same amounts collected as last year, the resort tax will hit $8.63 million by the end of the fiscal year, yet another record, and 6.5 percent ahead of 2011-12 collections, the previous record-setting year.
Sue Sinquefield, who heads the resort tax unit, said the rapid increase in collections the past two years has begun to slow as more vacation rental owners have come into compliance with state and county law.
Several years ago, her office began organizing agent sweeps to known areas of vacation rental properties, looking for vacation rental owners who were not paying the resort tax and not even registered with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
She also noted that her unit has begun looking more at leases to ensure they comply with state and local laws. Anyone unsure about a lease can bring it to the resort tax office for review.
Although Sinquefield did not identify specific neighborhoods in the county that the agents target, she said agents go where the most vacation rentals are. There is also a “tax cheat hotline” that people can use in anonymity to report resort tax evaders.
The resort tax is used to fund a variety of county programs, most notably the county’s share of beach renourishment.
Resort tax revenues also are used for the BACVB budget, to support the Bradenton Convention Center, the Crosley Mansion and other public venues in the county.
Barrier islands lead dollars
Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key continue to contribute the majority of resort taxes collected in Manatee County, according to the April 2013 collection figures.
The barrier islands collected $442,616 in resort taxes during April 2013, 57.2 percent of the total taken in by the department.
The barrier islands average contributing about 62 percent of the total resort tax collected each year, according to online figures from the resort tax office.