City must follow-up on hotel taxes

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 26, 2009

A year ago when the people of Natchez voted in favor of a $2 hotel tax, they weren’t doing so to pad the pockets of local hotel and B&B owners.

But, with tax collections at almost half of what they should be, it seems that may be just what is happening, at least in part.

Local tourism officials suspect that some hotels and bed and breakfasts aren’t paying the $2 per room fee to the State Tax Commission. That means one of two things — hotels are keeping the money for themselves or they never assessed the tax on their patrons at all.

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Either way, there is a problem.

Tourism officials promoted this new tax as something good for the community. Its sole purpose was to generate marketing dollars, which would in turn generate visitors and more money for Natchez. It was billed as a win-win.

But now the dollars aren’t there. And no one seems to be enforcing the matter.

If they haven’t already, tourism officials should call each local lodging property and simply ask whether they’ve paid their taxes.

Maybe some folks just need a reminder. Maybe others need to know someone is watching.

Some of the missing money can probably be attributed to a bad economy and empty rooms, but we, like the tourism department, don’t think that’s the sole factor.

The city must get to the bottom of this soon. Taxpayers supported the tax because they trusted the folks in charge.

But trust can be lost.