Online Hotel Reservation Fees are Taxable in Indiana

An out-of-state taxpayer that operates an internet website that allows customers to reserve hotel rooms was assessed sales tax on the fees it charged to customer. For the transactions in question, the taxpayer’s customers would reserve a room through the website and pay the taxpayer two amounts. One amount was for the cost of the room and the other amount was for estimated taxes and fees. The taxpayer contended several things, one of which was that it did not actually provide the accommodations and was not a retail merchant. These contentions were denied because a retailer is someone who rents or furnishes cubicles or space in exchange for consideration. So although the taxpayer did not own the hotels, its customers were paying them for the use or occupation of the property. The taxpayers’ claim of a Commerce Clause violation was also denied because the burden placed on the taxpayer is the same as the one placed on an Indian based travel agent. Also, the fact that the taxpayer counted the revenue at the time the customer stayed at the hotel in Indiana further proved that the transaction takes place in Indiana. Therefore, the taxpayers’ fees, which were not separately stated, were deemed to be subject to sales tax. (Letter of Finding 08-0434, Indiana Department of Revenue, January 28, 2009; Letter of Finding 08-0435, Indiana Department of Revenue, January 28, 2009)

Posted on April 3, 2009