Captain Kirk goes dramatic.
If you travel for work, you have likely booked hotel/motel rooms online.
You should therefore know, or at least suspect, that outfits like Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, Motel 6, Red Roof Inns, Four Seasons, Le Meridien, Best Western, Best Western+, Waldorf-Astoria, Hotel Fredonia, Comfort Inns, The Cloister, Holiday Inn, and other hoteliers/moteliers add local taxes to your nightly/weekly/monthly rate.
What about non-hotel and non-motel firms that buy and sell hotel/motel stays to the General Public — your hotels.coms, your expedias, your travelocitys, and your kayak.coms, to name a few? Do they pay the villages, towns, and cities the lodging taxes that states often allow local governments to assess and collect?
Yes and no. Per a Sixth Circuit ruling that came out today, they fork over taxes on the "wholesale" prices they pay the hoteliers/moteliers for the rooms but not on the mark-up they charge their customers.
The case turned on the delta between wholesale and retail. As the panel noted, "Ohio allows municipalities and townships to levy excise taxes on 'transactions by which lodging by a hotel is or is to be furnished to transient guests.'" City of Columbus v. Hotels.com, L.P., No. 10-4531, slip op. at 3 (6th Cir. Sept. 10, 2012). But the court ruled that the Ohio law doesn't apply to Priceline.com and the like. It instead covers "vendors", "operators", and "hotels" — all of which are pretty much what you and I think of as the hoteliers/moteliers — the panel said.
What does the outcome mean for you? Blawgletter suspects it will give a small boost to the buying of rooms without contact with the hotelier/motelier. Because you'll pay a slightly smaller tax if you book your stay that way.
But what if the online folks hike their rates to absorb the tiny tax savings? Or if California, say, has a more town-tax-friendly statute? We'll just have to see.