City of Columbus v. Hotels.com, L.P., No. 10-4531 (6th Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
Customers who rent rooms from the online travel companies pay those companies a higher “retail” rate; the online travel companies pay the hotels an agreed-upon “wholesale” rate, plus any taxes applicable to the “wholesale” price. 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.” Ohio Rev. Code 5739.08.The municipalities alleged that the online travel companies violated local tax laws by failing to pay the local occupancy tax on the revenue they collect in the form of the difference between the “wholesale” room rate and the higher “retail” rate charged by the online travel companies. In granting the travel companies’ motion to dismiss, the district court determined that the companies had no obligation under any of the ordinances, regulations, or resolutions to collect and remit guest taxes because the laws created tax-collection obligations only for “vendors,” “operators,” and “hotels.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The language of the laws is aimed expressly at taxing the cost of furnishing hotel lodging, and does not purport to tax the additional fees charged by the online travel companies.