Tax on Internet bookings? |

Tax on Internet bookings?

K.J. Hascall
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Hoteliers who book reservations over the Internet would not be able to avoid taxes under legislation that state Rep. Christine Scanlan plans to introduce next session.

As more vacationers and property owners use websites to book lodging, state tax laws increasingly are colliding with the anarchy of the online world.

“Internet sales for lodging have grown exponentially, and laws can’t keep pace with the changes in the market,” Scanlan said.

The Dillon Democrat wants to require assessor account numbers on any advertisements for homes, apartments, condominiums and townhomes that increasingly are being rented out to tourists.

Properties that are rented even just one day a year are required to submit sales and personal property taxes.

Any furnishings in rental properties valued at more than $250 ” couches, TVs, crystal chandeliers, area rugs, entertainment systems ” must be declared as business personal property and taxed as well.

Mike Magliocchetti, who owns lodging-management company Key to the Rockies, brought the issue to Scanlan’s attention.

“From a competitive standpoint, it puts us lodging companies at a disadvantage when we have to collect sales tax and they don’t,” he said. “Hypothetically, I have to charge $105 a night with sales tax, and they’re charging $100 a night.”

The Summit County assessor’s office has begun monitoring a number of websites listing local properties to make sure that owners are paying their taxes, but the sheer number of advertisements is daunting.

“Every cent is important to running this county, so we’re making a very assertive push to identify all properties,” said Beverly Breakstone, Summit County assessor. “Our challenge is to find the property. Right now, we play Sherlock Holmes. We’ve gone on a mission to discover these properties, but it’s a lot of work, and we need our appraisers doing other things than identifying houses.”

The county has chosen not to punish owners for their ignorance or neglect of the law, but officials intend to better enforce tax laws.

Breakstone said she supports Scanlan’s proposed legislation because it would generate untapped revenue for the county.

If tax collection is better enforced, a county-wide lodging tax is less likely in the future, she said.

Both Magliocchetti and Breakstone noted that tourists use county services such as roads, police and hospitals, and tax burden on locals increases when lodging owners are not paying taxes.