23 Sep 2017

Hotels claims threaten Auckland 'bed tax' take

6:10 pm on 23 September 2017

It's not yet clear how much of the Auckland Council's controversial rate on visitor accommodation providers will actually end up being paid.

A woman backpacker stands next to her luggage and a window in a hotel room.

Photo: 123RF

Auckland mayor Phil Goff hopes to reap what amounts to an additional 1 percent on the city's rate take from the so-called 'bed tax' - by making accommodation owners directly pay the equivalent of half of the city's tourism promotion spend.

It has been estimated to be worth about $13,650,000 before deductions.

Hoteliers and private objectors have been fighting the rate after Auckland Council narrowly voted in favour of the plan.

A little over $500,000 has been sliced off that new harvest, as council officials process objections from many of the 2999 affected property owners.

But the biggest claims involving major central city hotels are still in the council's processing pipeline.

The amounts being contested by property owners range from around $2400 for an individually-owned hotel room in a central city complex, to more than $400,000 for a major central city hotel such as the Stamford Plaza.

Claims to partially implement or completely wipe the rate have been made by 654 properties. Claims have been lodged at the rate of several hundred a week, and can be lodged until the end of June next year.

So far, 182 claims have been finalised with either partial or complete remission of the new rates, and most of those have been for smaller, simpler cases where the required information has been provided early.

The council has wiped $440,000 off the new rate demands so far, and more than $80,000 is likely to be wiped where the rating data for a property has found to be incorrect.

As of last week, 472 claims more were being handled from a total of 2999 properties initially liable.

Councillors who approved the new rate by a narrow majority, agreed several grounds under which property owners could object.

These include where the owner of a single unit in a larger complex, has leased the unit to a hotel operator for a fixed sum.

Property owners can also object if they think the rate has been applied to exempt spaces, such as restaurants, ballrooms, gyms and lobbies.

The council has also wiped the new rate for two motels whose units are leased as emergency housing to the Ministry of Social Development.

The targeted rate has a sliding scale of charges, ranging from central city properties at the top end, to smaller motels in the suburbs. Those in the largely rural Franklin and Rodney wards are exempt.

The biggest single risk to the new rate remains a possible legal challenge by major downtown hotels. The council expects to have a clearer picture of the sums involved in granting full or partial remissions, in about a month.

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