LIVINGSTON COUNTY – The Livingston County Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously in favor of joining a law suit against several online travel companies for allegedly fudging room rates and scamming many counties and cities in the region of hotel and motel taxes.
County Attorney David Morris made a presentation to the committee to explain the sites’ alleged conduct and announce that Nassau County is spearheading the suit but offering to recover tax losses from other counties for a share of the winnings.
“This is a contingent based law suit, where Nassau county will keep 28 percent of what is recovered, but Livingston County will not have to pay for the suit even if they recover nothing,” said County Administrator Ian Coyle. “Basically, these sites would contract with hotels for rooms at a discounted rate and turn the rooms around to customers at an increased rate.”
The law suit, which is being filed by Nassau County but includes Erie, Orange, Rensselaer and Saratoga Counties, alleges that these travel sites allowed customers to book hotel rooms through their sites but failed to pay the occupancy taxes back to the hotels’ respective counties.
The defendant companies are Expedia, inc.; Hotels.com GP, LLC; Hotels.com, L.P.; Hotwire, Inc.; Travelnow.com, Inc; Travelport, Inc.; Trip Network, Inc.; Internetwork Publishing Corp.; Orbitz, LLC; and Orbitz Worldwide, Inc.
The law suit alleges that these sites have been concealing the true amount of hotel and motel taxes owed to local counties for online hotel booking services since March of 1995.
The Ways and Means Committee acknowledged that there must be tax losses to Livingston County towns that contain hotels and motels, and said that joining the law suit at no cost can only benefit the county.
“The lake towns must be missing a ton,” said committee member Eric Gott. “If there’s no cost to the county, it’s found money.”
Nassau County has offered to carry out the law suit for a 28 percent share of the anticipated awarded sum for Livingston County.
“Livingston County is not going to pay for a separate suit,” said Daniel Pangrazio, chair of the Ways and Means Committee.