Attorney General says hotel owes back occupancy taxes

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By Carolyn Roy, carolyn@natchitochestimes.com

An opinion from the La. Attorney General issued Oct. 22 says a “value added package” being charged by Chateau Saint Denis Hotel is taxable and the Natchitoches Parish Tourist Commission must attempt to recover any unpaid taxes. The hotel charges $9.95 for a “value added package” that is mandatory for guests and includes amenities such as a fitness center, business center, Wi-Fi, parking and more. The hotel did not pay tax on the package from the time it opened in December of 2016 until July 1 of this year and the Natchitoches Parish Tax Commission did not collect the tax. In June of this year, Tourist Commission Director Arlene Gould, at the direction of her board, requested the opinion from the La. Attorney General’s office on whether the “value added package” was taxable and whether the Chateau Saint Denis should pay the back taxes.

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After the tourist commission contacted the Natchitoches Tax Commission, also in June, Tax Commissioner Jerry McWherter began collecting the tax July 1. It is the attorney general’s opinion that the taxes not paid from January of 2017 until June of 2018 should be collected and the $9.95 value is taxable income.

Gould said there is no way to determine how much tax the hotel did not pay since occupancy numbers are not available. However, the occupancy could be obtained from the State and the unpaid tax could amount to several thousand dollars. Gould met with McWherter Tuesday morning to discuss collection of the back taxes. Warren Reuther, owner of the hotel, participated in the meeting on a conference call. According to Gould, McWherter said he would not collect the back taxes.

McWherter said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon that he would make no statement until the issue had been totally resolved. Gould said her next step is to present the results of the Tuesday meeting to the tourist commission board when it meets Nov. 20. One issue is whether legal expenses to attempt to recover the back taxes would exceed the value of the unpaid taxes.

The tax is important to the tourist commission because it relies on a 3 percent occupancy tax for approximately 96 percent of its budget. This year’s budget is $375,000. The State Visitor Enterprise Fund gives $107,000, the Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce pays $13,000 for office rental and the Office of Culture and Tourism awards $20,000 for an advertising grant. T

he remainder of the budget is from the 3 percent occupancy tax. The issue of the unpaid tax came to light at a Parish Council meeting Oct. 22 when another hotel owner, Jay Sharplin, objected to the appointment of the hotel’s general manager, Chris Post, to the tourist commission board because of the hotel not having paid the back tax.

The council tabled the appointment.

 

The Natchitoches Parish Tourist Commission will meet Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 5:15 p.m. at the Natchitoches Visitor Information Center, 780 Front St., Ste 100.