1. Pasco

Remember that sales tax goof? Pasco wants to avoid repeat when it comes to hotels

The Hyatt Place Wesley Chapel hotel opened in August in the Cypress Creek Town Center, Lutz, near Interstate 75 and State Road 56. In March, Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden refunded nearly $58,000 after discovering the hotel was sending its tourist tax collections to his office instead of the state Department of Revenue. To avoid a repeat, Pasco’s Tourist Development Council now wants Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano to take over collection duties from the state. C.T. BOWEN | Times
Published May 20

DADE CITY — Pasco County's tourism advisers want to avoid another $58,0000 detour.

That's how much of Pasco's tourist tax revenue collected by the recently opened Hyatt Place Wesley Chapel hotel ended up in the wrong location — Hillsborough County instead of Tallahassee.

"That was the 'a ha!' moment,'' said Pasco Tourism director Adam Thomas "We need to do something about this.''

What they did was jump-start an idea that had been kicking around for more than a year: Have Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano take responsibility for Pasco's 4 percent tax on overnight hotel stays. Currently, the county relies on the state Department of Revenue to gather its tourist tax.

The change, approved by the Tourist Development Council last week, mirrors the collection system used in other Tampa Bay area counties including Hillsborough, Pinellas and Sarasota. The Pasco County Commission will consider the plan after a public hearing tentatively scheduled for June. If approved, it becomes effective Oct. 1.

The move comes after state and local audits revealed the Hyatt Place Wesley Chapel and 32 other Pasco businesses had been assigned incorrect county tax codes by the Florida Department of Revenue based on their addresses in Lutz or Odessa. Both of those communities straddle the Pasco-Hillsborough border. The mix-up meant sales tax payments were credited to the wrong county. And, in the case of the Hyatt Place, tourist tax dollars also were accounted for incorrectly.

Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden sent the hotel a tourist tax refund of nearly $58,000 on March 1 after learning the hotel was sending its bed tax receipts to his office instead of the Department of Revenue. No other hotels were affected.

The mistakes came to light after a Land O' Lakes retiree reported to Fasano she was charged the Hillsborough sales tax rate of 8.5 percent during a Jan. 27 shopping trip to the Tommy Hilfiger store at the Tampa Premium Outlets mall in Pasco. Hillsborough voters approved two sales tax increases in November to pay for transportation and schools and the new higher rate became effective Jan. 1. Pasco's sales tax rate remains at 7 percent.

But geographical accuracy is only one reason Pasco is planning to rely on Fasano's office. There also is widespread belief among Tourist Development Council members and others that not all locations offered as short-term vacation rentals are collecting the tourist tax properly.

"We know, we just haven't gotten our hands around it,'' said Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez, a tourist board member..

The state reported 220 entities are collecting Pasco's tourist tax, according to Fasano's office. But a study by the private firm Host Compliance, shared with the county's tourism office, found more than 1,100 listings for 717 unique rental units in March in unincorporated Pasco County.

"We certainly want to be sure people who owe taxes pay just like their neighbors pay,'' said Fasano.

The county currently has 38 major hotels and visitors paid $384,276 in tourist taxes in March, a 26.5 percent increase over a year ago. The money can be used only for tourism promotion or construction of tourist-related attractions.

A key to using the tax collector's office, rather than the Department of Revenue, is the enforcement powers afforded to Fasano. Tax collectors have the ability to garnish wages or place liens on property. The state system largely relies on self-reporting by hoteliers, management companies and landlords.

The switch will carry a 3 percent administrative fee, estimated at up to $80,000 in the first year, to the tax collector's office. Fasano told the tourist advisory board he would need to acquire new software and hire an employee dedicated exclusively to the tourist tax collections. He said he expected increased tourist tax collections to offset the costs.

"I'm not here to make money,'' said Fasano. "I'm here to make certain Pasco County gets its fair share.''

Contact C.T. Bowen at or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.


  1. Robert "Bobby" Mavis, 40, top left, is shown in this family photo with his wife Elizabeth and their children, from left, Evan, Kendall and Kyle. The father of three died in the Nov. 13 chain-reaction crash on northbound Interstate 75 in Hillsborough County. Courtesy Elizabeth Mavis
    Robert “Bobby” Mavis, 40, was on his way home from work last week when a semi-trailer truck crashed into his Mercedes.
  2. Emergency personnel work to extinguish a fire after a horrific collision in the northbound lanes of Interstate 75 bridging Hillsborough and Pasco counties on Nov. 13. Two people died, and their names have now been released by the Florida Highway Patrol. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    Days after the massive pile-up on Interstate 75, the Florida Highway Patrol has released the names of those who died.
  3. Hacienda Hotel in New Port Richey.    (ALICE HERDEN | Special to the Times) Special to the Times
    Overhaul of the Gloria Swanson parking lot will expanding parking options downton.
  4. A federal jury in Tampa found Christopher Brian Cosimano, left, and Michael Dominick Mencher guilty in the Pasco County shooting death of a motorcycle club leader. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
    Christopher “Durty” Cosimano and Michael “Pumpkin” Mencher were members of the 69′ers Motorcycle Club. Prosecutors said they were responsible for the rush-hour assassination of Paul Anderson, a...
  5. Bob Larson, 81, from St. Petersburg, raises his hand to indicate he has a match while playing Bingo during a meal with fellow seniors in Langer Hall at the Sunshine Senior Center in St. Petersburg. Also present (but not pictured) is his wife, Janet Larson, 74. The Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas funds 15 congregate dining sites in Pinellas and Pasco counties. The sites offer hot meals and socialization for 6,000 seniors. The Sunshine Center is one of those sites. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Seniors are happy in their communities, but have concerns about health care, housing, transportation and support for caregivers
  6. Pasco County School Buses. Times (2018)
    The School Board also approved a student calendar for 2020-21, with Aug. 10 as the first day of classes.
  7. Pasco County is spending $21.9 million to preserve 843 acres in central Pasco though its environmental lands program. Pasco County
    The county will preserve 843 acres within the Project Arthur development.
  8. Colleen Beaudoin is selected Pasco County School Board chairwoman for 2020, and Allen Altman is named vice chairman. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff
    Altman chosen as vice chairman.
  9. In December 2017, two masked motorcycle gang members were accused of assassinating Paul Anderson, 44,  president of the Cross Bayou chapter of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club while his pickup was stopped at a traffic light in Pasco County. [Pasco County Sheriffs Office]
    Evidence from the federal trial of two members of the 69′ers Motorcycle Club offers a rare glimpse of the world of outlaw biker gangs.
  10. Deputies were able to extricate the person with the aid of a Taser.