Court finds that Online Travel Companies (OTCs) ‘help consumers make informed choices in spending their travel dollars, and to do so conveniently and efficiently.’
The Texas 14th Court of Appeals yesterday affirmed that online travel companies (OTCs) pay all of the taxes that they are legally required to, and that the City of Houston and the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority cannot impose taxes on them for their reservation services. This decision follows the clear national trend, where state and federal courts have rebuffed efforts by state and local governments to attempt to impose taxes on online travel companies for their services.
The court went on to point out that an OTC, “does not have rooms or occupancy… the OTCs do not have the right to use or possess hotel rooms. Instead, the OTCs have websites and provide information.” The court noted that, “the OTC does not purchase the right to use the room and then resell that right to a consumer, and does not promise that any reservations will be made.” OTCs simply allow their customer to place a reservation with the hotel through the OTCs’ websites.
The court also correctly applied long-standing rules of statutory construction in interpreting a tax statute: if the taxpayer’s interpretation of the words of the statute is reasonable, the taxpayer prevails and any ambiguity must be resolved in favor of the taxpayer. Here the court held that the OTCs’ argument that their compensation was not part of the “cost of occupancy” was reasonable, and that “the provisions at issue reasonably can be construed to tax only the amounts paid to hotels,” so it ruled in favor of the OTCs.
Read the article in its entirety from HotelOnline here.