America’s taxing destinations: Cities that sock it to travelers

Which American cities impose the highest discriminatory travel taxes on lodging, car rentals, and meals? A new survey by EconFirst Associates and the NBTA Foundation reveals the answers, and you probably won’t guess the winner — I mean, loser.

Did you say Portland, Ore.? If you did, it’s either a lucky guess, or you get around, or you live there. P-Town’s discriminatory taxes against travelers added up to a whopping $21.55 a night. (Discriminatory taxes are calculated by excluding general sales taxes to count only taxes that target car rentals, hotel stays and meals.)
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Government says airlines “not required” to refund taxes on nonrefundable tickets

Kirk Miller knew his nonrefundable US Airways tickets was lost when he canceled his flight, but like many air travelers, he wondered about the taxes. Could he get those back?

“It is my understanding that although the fare is not refundable, the taxes included in the price of an airline ticket are refundable,” he says. “Airlines act as tax collectors, but they are supposed to hold the taxes in escrow until you actually travel, when they pay the government(s).”

Right?

Not exactly, it turns out. A US Airways representative told him the taxes were also nonrefundable. He sent a brief, polite email to the airline, and was again rebuffed.
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US Airways fined $40,000 for failing to disclose full airfares

In yet another sign that the Transportation Department is serious about protecting the rights of consumers, the government this morning fined US Airways $40,000 for failing to disclose the full price consumers must pay for air transportation.

“When consumers shop for air travel, they have a right to know how much they will have to pay,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a prepared statement, adding, “We will continue to ensure that airlines comply with our price advertising rules.”

Here’s the full consent order (PDF).
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Whoever wins in tax war, guests will still pay the bill

hotelNext time you book a hotel room online, consider what happens to the taxes you’ve paid.

Occupancy taxes can take a big bite out of your vacation budget. San Francisco hits its hotel guests with a 14 percent tax. Washington’s is 14.5 percent. Chicago adds 15.4 percent.

Where does all the money go? That’s a question the courts have tried to answer in recent months.

Online travel companies, which make money by negotiating a lower rate with a hotel and then offering it at a higher price to travelers, believe they should pay hotel taxes based on the lower rate they negotiated with the hotel. Some cities disagree, alleging the companies should remit all the taxes they’ve collected — not just a portion.
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