SC tax panel considers levy on time shares

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. - Time share owners and management companies are planning to fight a proposal that would require them to pay accommodations taxes on maintenance fees.

 

The Sun News of Myrtle Beach reports that the proposal to apply the state's visitor tax to those who stay here on time-share programs will be debated next week by the state's Tax Realignment Commission.

Supporters of the new tax say it could bring in $12 million for marketing the state's tourism products. They say time-shares benefit from the same advertising that brings tourists to the state's hotel rooms.

Opponents say time-share owners already pay property taxes on their condos and villas and should not have to pay the same tax charged for renting a room or place to stay.

Frans Mustert, a Myrtle Beach hotelier who helped draft the proposal, said time-share owners are tourists.

"It walks like a tourist, it lives like a tourist, it does things like a tourist," he said. "It's a tourist ... and should pay taxes like a tourist."

But Jason Gamel, vice president of the time-share trade group American Resort Development Association, says time-share owners are the same as people who have second homes at the beach. "A time-share visitor is a real property owner in the state of South Carolina," he said.

Defender Resorts is a time-share management company with several properties in Myrtle Beach. Company chief executive Ken McKelvey says the state can't have it both ways. If time-share owners are tourists, they shouldn't be paying property taxes.

"To charge me the real property tax and then charge me an accommodations tax, someone is double dipping somewhere," McKelvey said.

Time shares say they are simply group ownership of a property compared with an individual who buys a vacation home. When a time-share owner goes on vacation, they say, he is going to a home he owns along with 10 or 20 or 30 other people.

Most time-shares in South Carolina are located along the coast near Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head Island.

In Horry County, home to Myrtle Beach, there are about 6,000 time-share units, compared with about 53,000 hotel or condo-hotel units, said Taylor Damonte, director of the Clay Brittain Jr. Center for Resort Tourism at Coastal Carolina University.

South Carolina's accommodations tax charged on hotel rooms and vacation rentals is distributed to tourism groups statewide to help advertise and improve tourist attractions. The bulk of the money is collected and distributed along the coast where most people visit.

Supporters of the tax, say time-share owners aren't contributing their share to support tourism.

The money "is being used to keep up the streets, the trash, the beaches, the storm drains, the promotions and they don't pay a penny for any of that stuff," Mustert said.

The proposal is one of many being made to the Tax Realignment Commission that will then make recommendations to state lawmakers.

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Information from: The Sun News, http://www.thesunnews.com/

 

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