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Natchez hotel tax increase proposal dies in Senate
from Staff Reports - NEWS
March 28, 2018 - ListenUpYall.com

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – The bill to increase Natchez’ hotel tax has died in the state Senate after having passed the Mississippi House earlier this month at the request of city officials.

The city’s proposed local sales-tax increase pushed the rate too high for state lawmakers to approve, said Sen. Bob M. Dearing, D-Natchez. House Bill 1668 would’ve allowed Natchez to increase taxes on hotel guests to generate more revenues to promote tourism and enhance city parks and recreation.

At the request of the Natchez Board of Aldermen, the legislation was filed to allow an additional 1.5 percent lodging tax if approved by Natchez voters. It was to be on top of the city’s current levy: a 3 percent sales tax on motels, hotels and bed-and-breakfast inns plus a $2-a-day “heads-on-beds” tax on guests.

Dearing said the state Legislature has a policy to not allow cities to go too far above the state’s 7 percent sales tax to impose an additional tax on hotels. “Natchez is now at this maximum,” he said of the city’s current tax rate.

The bill passed the House by a 93-14 vote two weeks ago, but it died in the Senate without a vote. The state Legislature is ending its annual session this week.

If the bill had passed the Senate and been approved by Gov. Phil Bryant, a Natchez referendum would’ve been held in which 60 percent of those voting would have to favor the tax increase for it to be implemented.

In addition to the current hotel tax, the city also imposes a 1.5 percent tax on restaurants and bars to generate funds to promote tourism and pay off debts from building the convention center. The taxes in total generated about $1.7 million in fiscal 2017, according to the state Department of Revenue. An additional 1.5 percent hotel tax would have generated about $256,000 a year, according to estimates provided to city aldermen.




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