County Controller Finds Nearly $800,000 In Unpaid Hotel Taxes

Nov 25, 2015

22 hotels in the county owe money in unpaid taxes, according to Controller Chelsa Wagner.
Credit LV Lights / Flickr

In Allegheny County, 22 hotels owe more than $790,000 in unpaid taxes, penalties and interest.

The County Controller, working with the Treasurer’s office, conducted an audit uncovering the unpaid taxes.

Controller Chelsa Wagner said her office has an agreement with the Treasurer’s office, which collects the taxes, to take charge of more difficult audits such as this one.

“We’re usually looking at the ones that have had a change of ownership, or that the treasurer has already found some discrepancies with,” Wagner said.

One hotel in particular, located near the airport, owes more than $337,000.

“Law prohibits us from disclosing the actual individual businesses that were found to be non-compliant and owe these taxes, which is why we provide that in a lump sum," she added. 

Wagner said the 7 percent tax generates about $32 million a year -- half of which goes to the Sports and Exhibition Authority and another $9 million goes to VisitPittsburgh. The rest goes to debt payments for the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, the Monroeville Convention Center and county parks. 

“That tax is dedicated to promoting tourism and convention business in Allegheny County,” she said

She said unpaid or delinquent hotel taxes are common, one reason being that some businesses don't even realize they owe them. She admitted that county may need to do a better job of communicating with businesses in the future.

Now, the county faces the task of collecting the unpaid money.