All visitors should have a stake in services
Legislation introduced this week in Dover, with broad bipartisan support, would allow Sussex County to levy a 3 percent accommodations tax on hotels, motels and tourist homes. House Bill 228 would allow the county to collect the tax with revenues earmarked solely for beach nourishment, waterway dredging, economic development, tourism programs, recreational activities, water quality and flood control.
Visitors to the area as well as residents would benefit.
The tax would apply only to hotels, motels and tourist homes in unincorporated areas of Sussex. Many Sussex municipalities already levy – or are considering levying – a similar tax.
This would bring a level of fairness to the accommodations tax arena. All hotels, motels and tourist homes in Delaware currently pay an 8 percent room tax with 5 percent going to the state’s general fund, and 1 percent each to the state tourism office, county convention and tourist bureaus, and beach replenishment. If this new legislation passes, hotels, motels and tourist homes in unincorporated areas of the county would be paying 11 percent. Hotels in incorporated areas, depending on the accommodations tax levied or being considered by the towns, either are or would be paying in that same range.
One of the rubs with this legislation is that it does not address the rapid growth in short-term home rentals and room rentals in homes through internet services such as Airbnb, VRBO and bed and breakfasts. The state defines tourist homes as having five or more permanent bedrooms dedicated for rental to transient visitors.
Homeowners who rent their homes for short-term stays, or rooms - less than five - do not fit the tourist home definition. Unless there are changes to the bill over the next several days, those homeowners would not be required to pay the proposed Sussex accommodations tax. Hundreds of rooms in Sussex, especially in the coastal area, fall within that category.
This bill should be amended to include all short-term rental properties. All transient visitors should have a stake in the services earmarked for this tax which will benefit them just as much as those who stay in hotels, motels and tourist homes.