Wyoming – Online Travel Companies Held Liable for Tax

3/5/2013

SALT Report 2218 – The Wyoming Department of Revenue issued a final decision regarding whether online travel companies are vendors and required to collect and remit Wyoming sales tax. The Taxpayers in this case are a group of online travel companies who help their customers’ book hotel rooms. In a previous ruling the State Board of Equalization determined that the Taxpayers were required to register as vendors and collect sales tax on the room rates charged to the customer.

The Taxpayers appealed that decision claiming among other things, that their services are not “lodging services” subject to sales tax and if they are required to charge sales tax, this would result in double taxation. Ultimately, the Board rejected the Taxpayer’s arguments and made the following decisions:

  • Any person engaged in the business of selling services that are subject to sales tax is considered a vendor under Wyoming law. Therefore, because the Taxpayers accept payments for living quarters from transient guests, they are vendors and are required to register and collect sales tax.
  • The Taxpayer’s argument that they are not vendors because they do not buy, sell, or resell hotel rooms was rejected because a seller of lodging services is liable for sales tax even if the seller does not provide the services being sold.
  • The Taxpayer’s tax recovery charge cannot be excluded from the sales price because the charges are not separately stated on the invoice presented to the guests. Therefore, the Taxpayers must collect the full amount of tax due even if the hotel is never paid for the lodging services.
  • The price paid for facilitating the sale of living quarters is considered part of the price paid for the living quarters.
  • The tax rate to be collected must be sourced to the location of the hotel not the location of the customer.
  • The Taxpayers’ argument that the Department’s interpretation of the tax law would lead to double taxation was rejected.
  • The fact that the Taxpayers and the hotels are vendors in Wyoming does not mean that their customers are subject to double taxation because Wyoming law provides that all sales for resale are treated as non-taxable transactions.
  • The Taxpayers did not prove that their failure to collect and remit sales tax was the result of faulty information from the Department. Therefore, the Board rejected the Taxpayers’ argument that Wyoming sales tax laws are unconstitutionally vague and therefore, the Department should be equitably estopped from enforcing the sales tax against them.

For Further Information

Wyoming State Board of Equalization – Case Numbers 2010-112, 2010-113, 2010-114, 2010-115, 2010-117, 2010-127, and 2010-146