These taxes start as local bills in the legislature and require an initial referendum by the citizens of the city or the county where the tourism tax is levied on hotels, restaurants or both. If a majority of residents approve, the tax goes into effect as local businesses remit the tax to the Mississippi Department of Revenue, who then sends the revenue back to the local government.
Here are some of the new taxes that have been approved or are being considered by the legislature this session:
House Bill 325– Columbus and Lowndes County have added a 2 percent tax on restaurants with annual sales in excess of $100,000 that will go into effect on April 1 and expire, unless reauthorized in 2020.
The city will receive $400,000 annually of the tax revenue for parks and recreation and special events, while the county will get $300,000 for the same purposes.
The economic development organization known as the Golden Triangle Development LINK will receive $250,000 annually to fund the promotion of community and economic development in the area. The LINK is classified as a 501(c)(6) by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.
LINK gets most of its annual revenues from taxpayer funds, with 73.4 percent of its budget coming from taxpayers in 2017.
LINK Executive Director Joe Max Higgins’ salary has increased from $194,133 in 2011 to $358,534 in 2017. The amount the organization spends on payroll has increased from $194,133, when Higgins was the only paid employee, to $726,034 for a paid staff of six in 2017.
Higgins was made famous nationwide for his appearance on CBS’ 60 Minutes program in 2016.
Senate Bill 2854– The city of Charleston (population 1,958) would levy a 2 percent tax on restaurants and prepared food at convenience stores to promote tourism.
HB 1682– The city of Columbus wants an additional 1 percent tax on restaurants to help fund the operation and maintenance of an amphitheater.
HB 1423– The city of Lexington with 1,523 residents would levy a 2 percent tax on restaurants and prepared food at convenience stores to promote tourism.
HB 1683– The city of Bay St. Louis, with a population of 13,043, wants to impose a 2 percent tax on bars and restaurants to fund tourism and parks and recreation projects in the city.
HB 1726– This would allow the city of Columbia (population 6,037) to authorize a 3 percent tax on hotels and restaurants for parks and recreation and economic development.
HB 1742– The city of Waynesboro (population 4,903) would impose a 1 percent tax on hotels and restaurants for tourism and parks and recreation improvements.
HB 653– The city of Baldwyn had a 2 percent tax that expired on July 1. Despite notification from the Mississippi Department of Revenue, city businesses continued to collect the tax and have collected $11,983 from it so far this year. This bill will not only reauthorize the tax for the next three years starting on July 1, it will allow the city to receive the tax revenue collected by the DOR when the tax had expired.
SB 3074 would extend the repeal date of Pascagoula’s 3 percent tax on hotels — which expired in 2017 — to 2023 and would allow the city to retroactively collect the tax levied after the authorizing law expired.
SB 2185– The town of Carrollton (population 178) would impose a 2 percent tax on restaurants.
SB 2853– The city of Saltillo, with a population of 4,987, wants to levy a 2 percent tax on hotels and restaurants to pay for tourism enhancements, economic development and parks and recreation.
SB 2896– The city of North Carrollton wants a 2 percent tax on restaurants.
SB 2988 would increase Flowood’s tourism tax on restaurants from 2 percent to 3 percent and extend it until 2029.
HB 1565 would add 1 percent to Starkville’s existing hotel and restaurant tax to pay for the construction of sports tournament and recreational facilities and extend the repeal date.
HB 1706 would extend the repeal date on the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau and its supporting 1 percent tax on hotels and restaurants. The bill would also change the requirements for the bureau’s governing board. The original billwould’ve added 1 percent to Jackson’s existing levy.
SB 3086 would reenact the 3 percent hotel and restaurant tax in the city of Amory until 2023.