Tax evaders should not be allowed to hide
May 9, 2003
It is about time South Lake Tahoe decided to go after hotels that have chosen not to pay the city what it is owed.
Between unpaid transient occupancy taxes and penalties for being delinquent, 18 properties are in arrears by $666,740. Unfortunately the city is reluctant to let the public know who the owners are and which properties are at fault despite the fact that public money is at stake. The Tahoe Daily Tribune submitted a Public Records Act request on Tuesday to City Manager Dave Jinkens and City Attorney Catherine DiCamillo. They have 10 days to tell us if they will comply with the request.
There is no apparent reason to not disclose this information. Councilman Tom Davis said as much while being interviewed Wednesday on KOWL radio.
There are three properties being investigated for criminal wrong-doing. It is understandable why those names would not be disclosed — this is common practice in police cases.
But the taxpayers have a right to know who is not paying their share of TOT. Would there be a backlash against these properties? Maybe. Maybe we would not recommend family and friends to stay there. There are plenty of law-abiding businesses in town to frequent.
At a minimum they deserve to have their names in print for all to see. This is not a witch hunt, but instead a quest to ferret out the truth. No one is above the law.
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The money in question is charged nightly to people who stay at lodging establishments in town. It fluctuates between 10 and 12 percent depending where the establishment is located within the city limits and then another dollar is tacked on. The hotels collect the money, much like a business collects sales tax. Both taxes are then supposed to be handed over to the appropriate government entity.
Instead, 18 places in town are pocketing the money.
This hurts everyone in South Lake Tahoe with a ripple affect to surrounding areas. TOT revenue accounts for one-quarter of the city’s general fund. Police, fire and city paychecks come from this, so does snow removal and other basic needs. It is the fund the city draws on to pay for all municipal services.
It is shocking the city has let more than a half million dollars go uncollected. It has been screaming about the possibility of the state withholding $1 million when the gang in Sacramento finally figures out what to do with a $36 billion deficit.
More than a year ago there were standing-room-only crowds at City Council meetings bemoaning the possibility of senior programs being cut and fewer police officers patrolling the streets.
South Lake Tahoe cannot afford to function without the money it is rightly owed by businesses in town. It is unconscionable for these businesses to not pay what they owe just as it for the city to have let this go on for so long.