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Pinellas County Partners With Travel Sites To Collect Tourist Taxes

Tourists at Clearwater Beach.
WUSF Public Media

Pinellas County, a popular travel destination in Florida, will be receiving more tax dollars from tourists as the Pinellas County Tax Collector’s Office partners with various travel agencies.

Beginning Oct. 1, the office will begin collecting tourist taxes. The tourist tax, or bed tax, is a six percent charge that is taken from hotels or private homes rented for six months or less. The county commission decides where these tax dollar will be used.

Some of the agencies taxed includeTripAdvisor, Expedia, and a handful of their subsidiaries such as HomeAway, VRBO, FlipKey, VacationHomeRentals, VacationRentals, HouseTrip, HolidayLettings, and Niumba.

With these new tax collections, property owners won’t need to collect taxes on their own, as the Pinellas Tax Collector will process them through the new collection agreements.

“Working with the online travel companies makes that easier for us to be able to collect, but it also makes it a little easier for individual property owners to market and have a vehicle where they can collect and remit taxes to us,” said Pinellas County Tax Collector Charles Thomas.

In 2015, Airbnb was the first platform that the Pinellas County Tax Collector’s Office formed a tourist development tax agreement with. Nearly $2 million was received in bed taxes to Pinellas County in 2017 through this platform.

Currently, one of the biggest concerns that could affect these taxes is red tide. Thomas says they are unsure at this time what impact it has had on tourism dollars.

“I have not yet seen what that’s done to collections, because we won’t begin collecting September tourist dollars until October 20. That will be the first time we will start seeing those tax dollars come in.”

Two of the main recipients of these taxes are the St. Petersburg and Clearwater areas, which promote major tourism for the county. Pinellas is the second county to partner with TripAdvisor and Expedia, after Broward County.

More information on tourist development taxes can be found here.

Editor's note: The story has been updated to indicate that Charles Thomas' correct title is Pinellas County Tax Collector.

Hannah Yechivi is a WUSF digital intern for fall 2018.