After two extended mediation sessions between representatives from Myrtle Beach and Horry County, it is obvious the two sides are at an impasse for any agreement with regard to the ongoing hospitality fee lawsuit.
This may have been the result the city was looking for from the beginning. According to sources familiar with the proceedings, not one elected council member from Myrtle Beach participated in either of the mediation sessions.
Horry County had several elected council members participate in the sessions. It is extremely difficult to come to any solution if those who will ultimately pass the legislation that would be needed to approve and institute the agreement do not participate in the process.
With a view to court decisions to date, Horry County cannot now nor hope in the future to collect a 1.5% countywide hospitality fee as it has since 1997 until challenged in court by Myrtle Beach.
The simple way out of this mess is for both sides to step away from the legal process. Myrtle Beach and the other cities can collect the revenue from the new hospitality and accommodations taxes they passed earlier this year and spend that money as they choose.
Likewise, Horry County could continue to collect either the 1.5% hospitality fee it now receives from the unincorporated areas or choose to pass new ordinances under current state law for hospitality and accommodations taxes. The county could then spend those proceeds on the projects they need locally.
There is one possible perceived obstruction from the walking away process. Included in the initial lawsuit filed by Myrtle Beach is a claim that the countywide collection of the hospitality fee has been illegal since January 1, 2017 and that the county should refund the approximately $60 million collections from that date amount to.
Several considerations seem to make this claim spurious.
Those refunds cannot go to the cities. If taxes are collected illegally the refunds must go back to those who paid them, in other words the consumers.