Appeals court to hear online travel case

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The 1st District Court of Appeal will hear arguments in February in a long-running tax fight between counties and online-travel companies such as Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity,reports the News Service of Florida.

A Leon County circuit judge this year ruled against 17 counties that argued the companies had not properly paid tourist-development taxes — an issue that also has flared in recent years in the Legislature. Online-travel companies, which serve as middlemen between hotels and travelers, charge customers for room rentals and fees related to providing the service. The legal fight centers on whether tourist-development taxes apply to the total cost that customers pay or only to the portion that goes for room rentals. While counties say the total cost should be taxed, the industry says taxing its fees would amount to a services tax.

The appeals court last week scheduled oral arguments for Feb. 12.

The counties that have been involved in the lawsuit are Alachua, Charlotte, Escambia, Flagler, Hillsborough, Lee, Leon, Manatee, Nassau, Okaloosa, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, St. Johns, Seminole, Wakulla and Walton.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.