‘Bed tax’ revenue takes another month-over-month tumble in January

Through first four months of fiscal year, collections down $2.2 million, compared to figure for same period of 2023 fiscal year

Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

For the fourth month in a row — every month since the fiscal year began on Oct. 1, 2023 — Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — revenue has remained down, compared to the same months in the 2023 fiscal year.

The figures are shown in the latest reports from Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff.

The collections in January added up to $5,334,374.23, which was $520,331.32 lower than the $5,854,705.55 figure for January 2023, a decline of about 8.9%, the new data show.

Downs & St. Germain of Tallahassee, the firm that handles tourism research for the county’s tourism office, Visit Sarasota County, noted in its January report that the number of visitors “remains depressed for the fiscal year,” adding that the total was down 12.7% since Oct. 1, 2023.

The month-over-month drop in the bed tax revenue for January still was not as high as the decline for October, the reports from the Tax Collector’s Office make clear. Of the four months for which collections have been tallied this fiscal year, October 2023 marks the steepest fall in revenue: $1,020,789.24, compared to the total for October 2022.

Altogether, the Tax Collector’s Office has received $14,345,443.85 in funds from hosts of accommodations since the fiscal year began on Oct. 1, 2023, the reports note. That is down $2,222,129.51, compared to the figure for the same period of the 2023 fiscal year, Ford-Coates and her staff point out.

The initial report for the first four months of the 2023 fiscal year put the revenue total at $16,164,354.51.

Thus, a review of the tallies in the reports for the first quarter of both the 2023 and 2024 fiscal year finds the total revenue collected so far this fiscal year is down about 11.3%, compared to the amount turned over to the Tax Collector’s Office for the same period of the 2023 fiscal year.

The 6% Tourist Development Tax is charged on accommodations rented for six months or less time, including condominiums and single-family homes. (See the related article in this issue.)

The latest reports also show that the Airbnb revenue submitted to the Tax Collector’s Office this fiscal year added up to $2,342,771.25 through January. That is down approximately 6.5%, compared to the amount from Airbnb hosts through January 2023, which was $2,503,766.26.

Altogether, revenue collected by accommodations rented through online platforms with which the county has agreements — including TripAdvisor, HomeAway and all of their subsidiaries — made up 23.56% of the total Tourist Development Tax (TDT) funds through January, the data show. Through January 2023, the online rental platforms accounted for 23.13% of the collections.

Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

For years, as Ford-Coates and her staff have noted, Siesta Key and the City of Sarasota have waged a figurative battle to see which can bring in the most TDT money in a fiscal year. The city was the victor the past two fiscal years. Through January of this year, the city remained in the lead, with 25.37% of the revenue, compared to 23% for Siesta Key.

In January 2023, the city was farther ahead, with 26.6% of the total funds having come from its accommodations, while Siesta accounted for 21.07% of the money.

Among other details offered in the latest reports, the month-over-month declines in revenue for October, November and December 2023 have narrowed. Audits and other enforcement action can result in changes in the numbers from one report to the next, as Ford-Coates and her staff have explained.

For example, the previous shortfall for October 2023, compared to the October 2022 tally, was $1,039,963.89. The latest reports put that figure at $1,020,789.24.

For another example, the month-over-month decline in revenue for December 2023 has been lowered from $346,332.23 to $319,881.22.

Last month, Chief Deputy Tax Collector Sherri Smith told the members of the Sarasota County Tourist Development Council that the Tax Collector’s Office staff works diligently to try to track down hosts of accommodations who are not paying the bed tax.

Among other details in the January report from Downs & St. Germain, for Visit Sarasota County, are the following:

  • The number of visitors in January fell 13.4%, from 92,700 in January 2023 to 80,300 in January of this year.
  • Visitors’ direct spending was down 9.2% in January. The total was $159,273,600 for January 2023; this January, it was $144,616,200.
  • The occupancy rate for accommodations dropped 11% — from 76.2% in January 2023 to 67.8% this January.
  • The average room rate in January was just slightly lower — 0.1%, compared to the figure for January 2023. This January, it was $258.59; in January 2023, it was $258.84.
  • The number of room nights sold fell 8%. In January 2023, the total was 293,300; this January, it was 269,800.

Moreover, Downs & St. Germain pointed out that, in checking with property managers regarding their outlook for the next three months, the firm found 67% reporting reduced demand, compared to last year’s situation.