Changes coming to Pasco tourist tax collections

The Pasco County Tax Collector will begin collecting Pasco County’s tourist development taxes, under a change approved by the Pasco County Commission.

Pasco County hotels, motels and other short-term rental accommodations have been remitting Tourist Development Tax collections to the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR).

The Department of Revenue received the collections, then returned them each month to Pasco County.

Under the change approved on June 19, Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano’s office will be taking on those duties. The change will be effective once it is transmitted to the state, expected to occur within 10 days of the board’s meeting.

Fasano’s office also will be responsible for enforcement and audits.

The DOR could have charged administrative costs, but did not do so — meaning that the county received 100 percent of the proceeds, according to Pasco County officials.

Shifting the duty to Fasano’s office will result in some costs, as public education efforts get underway, and enforcement actions begin.

Under the previous system, the DOR collected the tax revenues and the county was entirely dependent on the state’s registration database and reporting methodology, according to background information in the board’s agenda packet.

Florida law has confidentiality requirements that prohibited the release of registrants’ information. Because of that, the county had no way to accurately confirm that all vacation rentals within Pasco were collecting and submitting the tax to state revenue officials.

Fasano has assured the Destination Management Organization, which oversees Pasco’s tourism activities, that his office — being privy to the Department of Revenue’s registrant database — will be able to ascertain if there is non-compliance and will be able to compel compliance.

Under state law, up to 3 percent of the tax collected may be retained by the collecting entity, which would be a new expenditure for the tourism office.

But the tax collector and county officials believe that 3 percent will be off-set, as Fasano’s office identifies non-compliant properties.

Adam Thomas, Pasco’s tourism director, said the switch will improve regulation and enforcement, and will result in a quicker remittance of the funds back to the county.

Pasco Commissioner Mike Moore, chairman of the Pasco County Tourism Development Council, advocated for the shift.

“Keeping this local, in my opinion, is what we want to do,” Moore said. “We’ll be able to manage this program better.”

Fasano pointed to a mix-up that became apparent in January when Hillsborough County increased its sales tax. Some Pasco businesses inadvertently paid the Hillsborough tax “because the businesses and the Department of Revenue thought those businesses were in Hillsborough County,” Fasano said.

“Because of the tax collector’s office stepping up, working diligently with the Department of Revenue, they found $624,000 that was collected and given to Hillsborough County,” Fasano said, noting it was discovered that the problem had been happening for years.

Fasano also noted that a hotel in Wesley Chapel had paid its tourist development tax to Hillsborough. In that case, Pasco County received a check from the Department of Revenue for $58,000, the tax collector said.

Fasano said he believes there are short-term rentals — that should be collecting tourist development taxes, but are not doing so.

Fasano said he wanted to be sure that places which offer short-term rentals, such as RV parks, are collecting the tourist development tax.

“If there’s a short-term rental, that’s a business. That means they should have a business tax receipt,” Fasano said. “We want to be sure that people that are renting short-term, or renting a hotel — overnighters — that the tourist development tax of Pasco County is collected and paid, and I believe we can do that. We would be able to enforce, to put liens, garnish.”

To help track records, Fasano said, “we’re going to work with the Property Tax Assessor’s Office.  “We’re going to be able to find out these things,” he said.

The tax collector predicted it will take about three years for his office to break even, because of the costs incurred to perform additional duties the added responsibilities will require.

Published June 26, 2019

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