New tax is taxing patience in S’mass | AspenTimes.com

New tax is taxing patience in S’mass

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Voters in Snowmass Village passed a townwide 2.5 percent sales tax in November to pay for better marketing for the resort.

But for some high-end visitors, the tax has led to some potentially negative impressions.

The new tax went into effect on Dec. 1.

But anyone who paid in full before Dec. 1 for the rental of a second home in Snowmass over the Christmas holidays, as is customary, may be getting an unexpected tax bill.

Under state law, tax on lodging is technically due at the time of occupancy, not at the time someone may have paid for a home or lodge rental.

So a visitor who paid $3,000 a night in November for 10 nights in a ski-in, ski-out luxury house over the holidays may soon be looking at an additional $750 tax bill.

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“They are annoyed,” said Steve Parmalee of his clients at Snowmass Home Rentals and Parmalee and Co., a property management company in Snowmass Village. “They can afford it financially but they are annoyed.

“It is more of the moral principle, and several of them have said that it is a hell of a way to market a community.”

Parmalee said he let all of his clients know in advance that the tax question was on the ballot and is now informing them to expect an additional bill, but not everyone who is renting out houses in Snowmass may have done so.

And so in an effort to avoid alienating the resort’s guests, the Snowmass Village Town Council has approved sending anyone who is getting a new marketing tax bill a letter of apology and a $25 gift certificate to redeem at a store or restaurant in Snowmass.

“It’s a proven fact that you can’t avoid having unhappy customers, but it is how you deal with the unhappy customer that is a major factor in how people feel they’ve been treated,” said Mike Segrest, Snowmass Village town manager.

“What we have done is to contact the lodges and the property managers and asked them to please provide us with a list of people who paid prior to Dec. 1,” Segrest said. “And we will provide them with a gift certificate and a letter and express the position of the town and how we regret that they may have been surprised.

“It is not an attempt to give them back the tax they have to pay, but it is a way to show we value them as customers.”

Segrest could not say with certainty how many $25 gift certificates the town will need to send out, but he didn’t expect it to be over 1,000.

And Town Councilman Arnie Mordkin thought it could be as few as 20.

“We are only talking about that guest that has paid in full prior to Dec. 1,” Mordkin said.

But Parmalee said it is customary that anyone renting a house over Christmas would pay at least a month in advance.

“I have a lot of clients that have been with me for decades, and these are people you want to keep happy,” he said. “I think the gesture is a good thing.”

The decision to send out the gift certificates brought the council close to spending the first of the town’s new marketing money.

But instead of acting as a de facto marketing committee, the board decided to cover the costs of the certificates with money from the town’s general fund.

And then the council plans to ask the newly formed marketing board to reimburse the town the cost of the effort.

“We did not appropriate it out of the marketing money,” said Mordkin. “I am of the view that we promised the taxpayers that the council wouldn’t appropriate those funds.”

[Brent Gardner-Smith’s e-mail address is bgs@aspentimes.com]

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