Revised Bed Tax Deemed More Fair For Benton County

The Benton County Commissioners passed revisions to the county’s guest tax ordinance on Monday. Benton County voters approved the tax for Benton County to collect a lodging tax on all hotel, motel and cabin room transient guest rooms in Benton County at a rate of 3% of the total lodging room rentals on an April 3, 2010 ballot. 
The transient guest tax applies only to transient guests, meaning a person or persons who occupy a room for thirty one days or less during any calendar quarter. Section 67.1003 of the Revised Missouri State Statutes authorizes communities the ability to approve up to 5% per occupied room per night. Mainly visitors to Benton County lodges, largely out of town or out of state visitors would pay this tax.
Benton County Commissioners issued an operating resolution for Benton County Tourism & Recreation (BCTR) to manage the transient guest funds since is inception. BCTR provides an annual plan to the Commissioners for approval and updates are given on a semi-annual basis. These funds are used for tourism development and promotional projects to increase tourism in Benton County. The Annual Marketing Plan can be found at www.visitbentoncomo.com along with the annual budget and line items.
  According to BCTR the need for revisions included verbiage to include all short-term rental properties. The previous ordinance did not include any “bed and breakfast, tourist home or house, apartment house, public or private club, mobile home, house trailer at a fixed location, river craft or barge or other short term rental or nightly rental property” per the revised Ordinance. 
 “With the rising increase in short-term rental homes in Benton County, the requirements to pay the transient guest tax should be the same for all operators renting whether it is a motel or a lake house, “ said Lynette Stokes BCTR Director. 
  Other reasons given for the revised Ordinance include ensuring there is verbiage for all non paying lodges to be held accountable, including stricter penalties and fines and a request for personal information from operators if a lawsuit or liens are necessary to be filed. The ability to review tax records for purposes of verifying accurate income was also cited, which eliminates any Operator submitting false transient guest forms with inaccurate information. 
  “We currently have over a dozen known individual rental properties that we are not receiving revenue from with nightly rental rates ranging from $50.00 to $250.00. In addition, a few of the lodges that have been paying are paying late with no interest or penalties. There have been several lodges that have  allegedly falsified their lodging tax information. This is not fair to the ones paying and it’s not fair non-payers get the same benefits such as marketing, as the ones who pay on time. The revised ordinance covers all of this so there are no grey areas,” commented Stokes. 
  BCTR cited one area motel that has been in default since 2017 and currently owes nearly $2,000 in back taxes that does not include the past two years of transient guest income. They have continued to operate without paying the transient tax because it was difficult to enforce and collect without the new revisions.
With an influx of revenue from non-paying lodges and rental properties BCTR hopes to continue to increase the dollars going towards county wide tourism and marketing efforts. The organization helps promote short-term rental properties on our their website and social media as well as at sports shows and other opportunities throughout the year. 
  “This is a win-win for the entire county as there is a trickle-down effect when tourists visit our community, including increased tax revenue for the cities and county as well as revenue for businesses visited by tourists,” concluded Stokes.
 The revised ordinance took effect August 26 on transient guest stays after this date. For more information please contact County Collector David Brodersen or Director of Benton County Tourism & Recreation Lynette Stokes.
 

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