Legislative & Regulatory Issues

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WH&LA has joined a coalition of over 40 business organizations seeking to repeal local personal property taxes, an annual municipal tax in many communities on business supplies & equipment that were already taxed when purchased, while also exploring methods to minimize the impact on current municipal budgets. Wisconsin is one of the only midwest states that still enables this tax.

The Personal Property Tax is an outmoded and unfair source of revenue in Wisconsin. Its origins pre-date both the income and sales tax, in the days when all property was taxed, and was the sole source of revenue for the government.

Today, the Personal Property Tax remains in effect on small businesses. With some industries completely exempted, and others still required to foot the bill, this is the very definition of government picking winners and losers in our economy, and the exact opposite of uniformity.

The PPT represents about 3% of the total of property taxes. By having that sum of cash returned to Main Street small businesses, our state’s economy could realize more job creation and increased reinvestment in the private sector. (http://www.wptonline.org/repeal-ppt)





Would you be impacted by an increase in state tourism marketing, and/or in improved allocations of local room tax revenues? Would you want to make sure legislators were more aware of the impact of some of their proposals on your bottom line? Are you aware of how much more receptive legislators are to hearing directly from businesses in their district regarding the impact of the budget or proposed legislation, than hearing it from us? This is the time to join together with your peers, learn the latest on what is on the slate at the capitol, and join others in meeting with legislators! Sign up now for WH&LA’s Action Day on April 11th at the Madison Concourse Hotel. Have an opportunity to meet with your own state legislators or their key staff at the Capitol! Whether you’ve never met your legislators, never been to the Capitol, are not up on the issues or what to say about them … join us, learn and enjoy this great new experience! For more information, see the registration form or register online.


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A new searchable database from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources allows anglers to search by lake, by county and by multiple counties to pull up an interactive map and a listing of the fishing regulations for that water – a great tool for lodging properties to link from their website, where guests frequent waterways for fishing during a stay.

“We hope this will help make it easier for anglers to enjoy their time on Wisconsin’s inland lakes and know how many and what size fish they can keep and the season dates,” says Jon Hansen, a Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist.

Regulations for rivers, Great Lakes waters, inland trout and others will be added in over time. Anglers should consult their regulation booklet for general restrictions on using bait, how many lines, and the like, Hansen says.

There are two easy ways to reach the database — through DNR’s fishing regulations page or through its Find A Lake page. Anglers can pull up and print out the information before leaving from home, or can use their smart phones to answer their regulatory questions while reeling in a fish, says Joanna Griffin, fisheries policy specialist for DNR’s Bureau of Fisheries Management.

“The searchable database is just one part of what we’re doing this year to make it easier for people to have fun fishing with family and friends,” Griffin says.

A phone application is in the works, and right now anglers can download and print out a 2012 Year of Fish calendar that includes important fishing dates and the 2012 Wisconsin Fishing Report which provides statewide fishing forecast information.


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The Wisconsin Department of Revenue has posted several updates, reports and publication revisions to its website, with two in particular relevant to the lodging industry, including:

Tax Release: ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ and Similar Promotions,” which revises an article of the same name, reflecting a law change that went into effect on September 1, 2011.

Golf Courses – How Do Wisconsin Sales & Use Taxes Affect Your Operations,” also known as “Publication 226″ has been revised.

Additional resources available at the Department of Revenue’s website include the December 2011 “Withholding Tax Update,” with articles like “Current Withholding Rates to Apply for 2012,” “Recent Legislation – Health Care Benefits for Adult Children under 27,” “Federal Wage Statements and Information Returns,” and more.

The above links are password protected for lodging members only. If you need help logging in, email Michelle in the WH&LA office or call 262/782-2851.


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From HotelOnline:

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.


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Last week the Federal General Services Administration (GSA) released the new Federal Per Diem Rates for Lodging and Meals & Incidentals (M & I) that will go into effect Oct. 1, 2011 and expire Sept. 30, 2012. While the “CONUS” rate, for all communities & counties not specifically listed, stayed the same, there were numerous changes for those listed.

Full text of this Capitol Insider can be found here by clicking the August 25, 2011 link. This link is password protected for lodging members only. Contact Michelle in the WH&LA office or call 262/782-2851 if you need help logging in.



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To assist businesses with complying with the new ADA regulations such as those impacting the lodging industry, Section 44 of the IRS Code allows a tax credit for certain small businesses.

More information about the tax credit can be found here. (This information is password protected for lodging members only. E-mail Michelle in the WH&LA office or call 262/782-2851 if you need help logging in.)



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The state Legislative Fiscal Bureau just finished its two-year publication, “Local Government Revenue Options – January 2011”, which outlines the types of taxes local governments can impose, including Room Tax (see pages 5-8 plus an Appendix on pages 15-17). This has been updated every two years since about 2001. The publication can be downloaded here.

While the Appendix does list room tax rates alpha by county, then alpha by municipality, it only includes the rates in effect Jan. 1, 2010, in municipalities that already had a room tax before. Thus it does not reflect the municipalities imposing a room tax for the first time, which is why the list created in February 2010 by the WH&LA (included for lodging members only available here) includes the rates of 13 additional municipalities.

The new state publication does show total reported room tax collections for each municipality, as well as the total reported state-wide. It shows that total collections peaked at $63.72 million in 2008, but dropped down to $55.83 million in 2009. The total municipalities with room tax that they tracked went down slightly from 258 in 2008 to 257 in 2009, but again this does not reflect total counts including first time room tax areas.

This publication also includes sections on:

  • Local Exposition District Taxes
  • Local Professional Baseball Park District Taxes
  • Local Professional Football Stadium District Taxes
  • Premier Resort Area Tax
  • Regional Transit Authorities
  • County Sales & Use Taxes (including a chart on the 61 counties imposing the 0.5% county sales tax)

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The WH&LA has learned that more than a few properties in different parts of the state have not submitted their Room Tax collections to their municipality within a reasonable timeline. While significant cash flow challenges appear to be the cause in most if not all of the cases, it may be helpful to consider several key points before resorting to withholding payment.

The full text with links of the Capitol Insider e-mail is available here by clicking on the January 21, 2011 link. Please note that Capitol Insider e-mails are for WH&LA lodging members only and you will need your user ID and password to access the above link. Need help logging in? Contact Michelle in the WH&LA office via e-mail or call 262/782-2851.


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Effective October 1, 2009, Wisconsin sales and use tax law was changed to impose tax on a retailer’s purchases of items that it provides free of charge to its customers with the required purchase of another item.

This article from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue provides examples to illustrate how Wisconsin sales and use taxes apply to various promotions.


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