‘Bed tax’ revenue sets new record, with three months of collections left in this fiscal year

Every month has seen higher revenue total, compared to previous fiscal year’s figures

The annual Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix, held in early July this year, typically brings thousands of tourists to the county days ahead of the events in the Gulf of Mexico. Image from the Grand Prix website

With three months of reports left to come this fiscal year, Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax (TDT) — or, “bed tax” — revenue already has set a new record, the latest reports show.

Through June, the county had collected $41,702,340.33, Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff have noted.

That figure represents an increase of $8,635,893.79, compared to the amount collected through June 2022, the reports show.

For the month of June, the funds turned over to Ford-Coates and her staff totaled $3,684,889.40, which was up $512,656.64, compared to the amount the Tax Collector’s Office received in June 2022, the reports say. The figure for June of this year is up approximately 16%, compared to the June 2022 total of $3,172,232.76.

The Tourist Development Tax is charged on accommodations rented for six months or less time. The collections surpassed a state threshold in 2021 that allowed the County Commission last year to approve an increase in the tax from 5% to 6% as of Oct. 1, 2022, which was the start of the current fiscal year.

This is the Tourist Development Tax comparison report for June. Image courtesy Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

So far this fiscal year, each month has seen higher collections turned over to Ford-Coates and her staff. In June 2022, the revenue initially was down by $135,081.31, compared to the amount collected in June 2021.

Among other details of the new reports, the amount of money that Airbnb had turned over to the Tax Collector’s Office from its hosts through June added up to $5,495,968.35. That marks a hike of almost 42%, compared to the Airbnb total through June 2022, which was $3,870,914.24.

Altogether, online rental platforms had accounted for 20.54% of the TDT revenue through June, the reports note. Through June 2022, the comparable figure was 19.17%.

Along with Airbnb, TripAdvisor and HomeAway — plus all of their subsidiaries — collect the tax. However, their agreements with the county do not require the companies to identify their hosts.

Traditionally, the City of Sarasota and Siesta Key have waged figurative battles for bragging rights over which collects the largest amount of the bed tax in a given fiscal year. Last year, the city won, though Siesta has prevailed most years. Through June, the new reports show, the city has accounted for 26.58% of the revenue, while Siesta hosts have contributed 25.06%. The fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

Among other details in the new reports, both the April and May collections have risen. The new month-over-month uptick for May is $315,426.06. The initial report for May put the increase, compared to the May 2022 total, at $307,947.10.

This is the Tourist Development Tax report for June showing collections by location. Image courtesy Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

For April, the revised increase, compared to the amount collected in April 2022, is $725,189.19. The prior report showed the month-over-month uptick for April was $711,725.39.

Ford-Coates and her staff point out that audits and other enforcement actions can produce changes in the figures as a fiscal year goes on. The Tax Collector’s Office staff members who handle the Tourist Development Tax revenue constantly are searching for rental properties whose owners are not turning over the tax collections, Ford-Coates and Sherri Smith, chief deputy tax collector, have noted that in presentations to the county’s Tourist Development Council, which is an advisory board.

Along with the Tax Collector’s Office reports each month, Visit Sarasota County (VSC), which is the county’s tourism office, provides a monthly update to elected officials with details from the Tallahassee research firm that VSC uses, Downs & St. Germain.

The number of visitors to Sarasota County in June was up 5.7%, Downs & St. Germain reported. The figure for this June was 134,580; in June 2022, it was 127,300.

Moreover, the visitors’ direct expenditures jumped 16.1%, month over month. The total for this June was $149,947,500; that compares to $129,135,600 in June 2022.

Additionally, the average room rate climbed 12.9%. For June of this year, it was $253.47; in June 2022, it was $224.52.

The number of room nights sold also was up. The figure was 282,400 this June, an 1.8% increase, compared to the figure of 277,500 in June 2022.

However, Downs & St. Germain reported, the occupancy rate declined 5.8%, month over month. This June, it was 69.7%; in June 2022, it was 74%.

In one other note from the Visit Sarasota County report, Downs & St. Germain said that, in checking with general managers of accommodations for the next three months, they found “nearly 3 of 4” reporting decreased demand; only 7% reported higher demand.

On one other positive note, however, Downs & St. Germain noted that the number of international tourists coming to Sarasota County has continued to grow this fiscal year, especially in regard to travelers from Canada. The number of Canadian visitors was up 62.6% through June.