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Neighbor islands create a central portal for hotel tax payments

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The neighbor islands have teamed together to streamline payment for county-run transient accommodation taxes.

County transient accommodation taxes went into effect last year. The process of collecting the tax fell into the hands of each individual county. Taxpayers no longer had the option to pay the tax to the state who in turn gave the counties their share.

"So these people, especially those that have properties in all four counties, let's say the Marriots or the Hyatts, you know, they can't just make one payment anymore. Now, they have to make five payments, one to the state and one to each county that they're in," said Reiko Matsuyama, the County of Kauaʻi finance director.

Kauaʻi joined forces with Hawaiʻi and Maui counties to get its own tax-payment portal off the ground. It’s a joint cooperative purchase agreement, so each county pays for its own services.

"When the new county TAT was imposed on all the counties, we were working really closely with each other, all four counties, along with the Department of Taxation," Matsuyama said.

The new portal can calculate county TAT fees, shows payment history and allows a single user to register multiple accommodations to one account.

"This new site is going to import the state Department of Taxation data directly. And so when they receive payments, and they're going to look at the state data, it's going to do the reconciliation, so it's going to kind of build your receivable balance, if you will," Matsuyama told HPR.

When the county TATs went into effect, finance departments created new positions to manage or enforce the multi-million dollar revenues.

"We're still trying to manage the staffing issue. I think that it will alleviate some of our back office work. So I'm looking forward to it," Matsuyama added.

Each county levied a 3% TAT last year after the state Legislature voted to strip the counties of revenues from the state’s TAT. In turn, the Legislature allowed counties to establish their own TAT on top of the state’s 10.25% tax.

Sabrina Bodon is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Contact her at sbodon@hawaiipublicradio.org or 808-792-8252.
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