Horry County officials look like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight with respect to a Hospitality Fee issue that county government has bungled for at least the past three years.
In a MyHorryNews.com story yesterday, council member Johnny Vaught tried to pass off the latest brouhaha over the continued collection by the county of a 1.5% hospitality fee in every city except Myrtle Beach as a “mistake” because of a misinterpretation of a June 21, 2019 judge’s temporary restraining order.
The order, signed by Judge Seals, suspended collection of the hospitality fee by Horry County in the “City of Myrtle Beach for Itself and a Class of Similarly Situated Plaintiffs,” as the lawsuit is titled.
Additionally, the order denied a request by Horry County that a temporary restraining order be placed against the cities with respect to collection of new accommodations and hospitality taxes the cities respectively passed and are scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2019.
One of the county’s arguments in requesting a TRO against the new city taxes was that they would illegally exceed local hospitality and accommodations tax limits mandated by state law when taken in conjunction with the county hospitality fee.
The city hospitality and accommodations tax ordinances were passed in accordance with entirely separate sections of state law and have nothing to do with the uniform service charge hospitality fee in question, a point I’m not sure county officials entirely understand.
The new city hospitality tax is collected on prepared food and beverages only. The countywide uniform service charge hospitality fee is collected on accommodations, prepared food and beverages, admissions and rental car fees.
On June 25, 2019, the county sent an email to the cities stating it would continue to collect the 1.5% hospitality fee everywhere except within the city limits of Myrtle Beach where it said collection of the fee was temporarily suspended pending final settlement of the lawsuit.
The county’s email immediately caused an outcry from the other cities in the county, led by North Myrtle Beach, which issued a statement saying the county was attempting to continue to “illegally” collect the hospitality fee in the other cities.