June 26, 2017

Colorado Supreme Court: Denver Lodger’s Tax Imposes Duty on Online Travel Companies to Collect and Remit Tax

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in City & County of Denver v. Expedia, Inc. on Monday, April 24, 2017.

Statutory Construction—Local Tax Ordinances.

The City and County of Denver (Denver) petitioned for review of the Colorado Court of Appeals’ opinion reversing the judgment of the district court and remanding with directions to vacate the subject tax assessments against Expedia, Inc. and the other respondent online travel companies (OTCs). (See Expedia, Inc. v. City and County of Denver, 2014 COA 87.) The district court had largely upheld a Denver hearing officer’s denial of protests by Expedia and the other OTCs to Denver’s claim for unpaid taxes, interest, and penalties, apparently due according to Denver’s ordinance imposing a lodger’s tax. Unlike the hearing officer and district court, the court of appeals concluded that Denver’s lodger’s tax article was at least ambiguous with regard to both the purchase price paid or charged for lodging, upon which the tax is to be levied, and the status of the OTCs as vendors, upon which the ordinance imposes the responsibility to collect the tax and remit it to the city; and the intermediate appellate court considered itself obligated to resolve all ambiguities in the lodger’s tax article, being a tax statute, in favor of the OTCs.

The supreme court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals. The court held that Denver’s lodger’s tax article imposes a duty on the OTCs to collect and remit the prescribed tax on the purchase price of any lodging they sell, to include not only the amount they have contracted with the hotel to charge and return but also the amount of their markup.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

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