‘Bed tax’ revenue up 58% for October, compared to figure for same month in 2020

Total for 2021 fiscal year increased to more than $31 million, Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office reports

In an Oct. 12 Facebook post, Visit Sarasota County promotes the 2021 Orchid Show at Selby Gardens in downtown Sarasota, which had the theme Aerialists from the Tree Top to the Big Top! Image from Visit Sarasota County’s Facebook page

Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — revenue collections marked the start of the 2022 fiscal year with a 58% hike over the total reported in the first month of the 2021 fiscal year, as shown in the latest data released by Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates and her staff.

Revenue turned over to the Tax Collector’s office by all the entities countywide who collect the bed tax added up to $726,922.09 more than the amount taken in during October 2020. The new figure also surpasses the October 2019 total, the reports show.

The revenue for this October added up to $1,975,435.44, Ford-Coates staff has reported. That compares to the $1,248,513.35 collected in October 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was well underway — prior to the availability of vaccines. The new figure also is 66% higher than the October 2019 figure, according to The Sarasota News Leader’s calculations.

Typically, before the pandemic, October was a slower tourism month in the county. Because of the widespread outdoor options available to visitors in Sarasota County, local officials have pointed out that more and more people have been drawn to the community during the pandemic. Many individuals who have wanted to travel have felt safer outside, county tourism leaders have explained, because of research showing transmission of the coronavirus is less likely in outdoor settings.

Thanks to strong tourism throughout the 2021 fiscal year — which ended on Sept. 30 — the county once again broke a record for TDT revenue, as made plain in the new reports from Ford-Coates’ office. In fact, the latest data show that the total cited in the Tax Collector’s Office reports for the end of the fiscal year has climbed since then.

The figure noted last month for the 2021 fiscal year was $30,956,783.90. The new reports put it at $31,028,655.73.

Ford-Coates and her staff have explained that audits and other enforcement actions can lead to changes in the numbers from month to month.

The previous county TDT record was set for the 2019 fiscal year: $23,380,566.92. The new figure is almost 33% higher than that 2019 total.

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

Among other information in the latest reports, the Tax Collector’s Office says that Airbnb hosts brought in $345,813.10 in October. That is more than two times the $169,997.23 noted in the October 2019 report. In October 2020, the Airbnb total was $209,145.91. The figure for this October is approximately 65% higher than that number.

Altogether, Ford-Coates’ staff shows in the new reports, online platforms accounted for 23.67% of the TDT revenue turned over to the office for October. That is higher than the figure for Siesta Key — 23.19% — but less than the percentage for the City of Sarasota — 28.01%.

Siesta has “won” the proverbial competition most years among locations, taking in the greatest amount of TDT revenue; the City of Sarasota usually has been in second place.

The 5% tax is collected on all rentals of accommodations for six months or less time. The revenue is used for an array of purposes, including beach maintenance, beach renourishment, promotion of the county to visitors, and upkeep of the two Major League Baseball stadiums in the county — Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota (Baltimore Orioles) and CoolToday Park outside North Port (Atlanta Braves).

This pie chart shows how county staff has allocated Tourist Development Tax revenue for the current fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The latest reports also reflect other efforts of Ford-Coates’ staff to ensure that all of the TDT revenue that should have been collected has been counted.

For example, the figure for December 2020 is up from $1,807,450.50 in the previous report to $1,809,057.32 in the new one. For another example, the total for August is $1,790,286.21, compared to $1,782,862.93 in the previous report.

Ford-Coates and other senior members of her staff have pointed out that the employees who handle the Tourist Development Tax reporting scour all possible sources to try to determine whether owners of properties rented to tourists are paying the tax. Additionally, as noted often during Siesta Key Association meetings, neighbors who notice routine rentals of homes on the island make certain that Ford-Coates’ staff is collecting the tax that should be paid on the basis of those rentals.

This is the TDT location report for October. Image courtesy Sarasota County Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates

In her October report to elected officials in the county, Virginia Haley, president of the county’s tourism office, Visit Sarasota County, wrote in an email that the county had 116,600 visitors, which marked a 52.4% increase from the figure for October 2020.

Visitor direct expenditures in Sarasota County in October was $121,523,000, she continued — a 65.2% hike, compared to the October 2020 total.

Lodging occupancy for October was 60.1%, Haley reported, which reflected a 21.9% increase from the October 2020 number.

The average room rate for lodging in October was $183.07, she added, which was up 34.6%, compared to the October 2020 figure.

Finally, Haley noted, 209,900 room nights were sold in October. That marked a 19.7% increase over the October 2020 total.

Visit Sarasota County uses a research firm in Tallahassee to collect the data on which its statistics are based.