STR tax proposal is too high and not the answer

Many Aspen voters are getting contacted by city pollsters who are asking them about a new tax on short-term rental guests. To those who feel squeezed by pandemic-level occupancies, this may seem like an easy “yes.” But as a longtime business owner who has weathered many ups and downs in Aspen, I can tell you that the proposed tax is not the answer to our community’s growth challenges. 

The proposed 13.1% tax would be added to our existing lodging tax rate of 11.3%, bringing the total tax to 24.4%. City of Aspen staff has not presented overall tax rates of comparable mountain destinations, and after some quick research, it’s clear that this new tax would make Aspen non-competitive. Neighboring Snowmass Village taxes their visitors at 12.8%, Vail at 10.3%, and Park City at 13.37%. Even highly regulated Crested Butte taxes their STR guests at 20.9%.

Aspen’s occupancy is already falling from peak pandemic levels, and travelers are starting to tighten their purse strings. Placing a 13.1% premium on a large sector of Aspen’s lodging inventory would have immediate and jarring effects on our overall visitor numbers, slowing down business for restaurants, retailers, outfitters and everyone else who services our guests.

Let us see how the new Ordinance 9 regulations slow growth in the STR market and funnel tax dollars into planned city projects before we place an exorbitant tax rate on our visitors. And if you are a lucky Aspen voter who is contacted by a pollster, I urge you to consider the questions carefully, while considering the livelihood of our community.

Chuck Frias