Vt. city seeks more taxes from online hotel deals

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) - The city of Burlington is making an effort to collect more tax revenue from the online reservations of hotel and motel rooms in Burlington by cracking down on online companies that city officials feel aren’t collecting all the taxes they are owed.

Mayor Miro Weinberger said the effort could bring the city a “significant” amount of money and level the playing field between local hotel owners and out-of-state companies.

Last month the city signed a contract with a group of lawyers, who have filed dozens of lawsuits across the country against online travel companies, asserting that the companies pay too little in taxes on hotel room sales.

This is an attempt to collect unpaid taxes, taxes that out-of-state companies owe us,” said Weinberger. “Not only is this going to be good for Burlington taxpayers - we’re talking about a significant amount of money - I also think it levels the playing field between these out-of-state companies and local hotel owners who have been playing by the rules.”

The Burlington Free Press (http://bfpne.ws/1itP6LU ) reports that online travel companies pay hotel occupancy taxes only on the wholesale rate rather than what customers pay. The city wants customers to be taxed on the price paid for the hotel room, the same way hotels are taxed directly.

Philip Minardi, of the national Travel Technology Association, whose membership includes many of the online travel companies, said they don’t operate hotels, but rather advertise and allow customers to compare prices.

“They’re not retailers; they’re service providers,” Minardi said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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