|By Alan Riquelmy, Columbus
Ledger-Enquirer, Ga.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
October 6, 2009 - The city of Columbus got another win Monday before the Georgia Supreme Court in a case about how much tax dollars it should receive from a travel Web site.
In a 6-1 ruling in the case of Hotels.com v. city of Columbus, justices affirmed a local judge's decision and ruled that Columbus is owed tax revenue from Hotels.com based on the rate the customer pays for the lodging, not the wholesale amount the Web site pays. Monday's ruling is "virtually identical" to a 4-3 June decision by the high court, which also was about tax revenue from an online travel company, Expedia Inc.
"And what the Supreme Court said in both cases is, the tax should be based on the retail room rate paid by the customer," said attorney Trip Tomlinson, an attorney for the city.
The city is owed thousands of dollars, Tomlinson said. He added that data with more specific numbers will be available in four to six weeks.
In its ruling, the high court said the business contracts between Hotels.com and hotels could change in the future. That could mean a change in how the city gets its taxes.
"As borne out by the facts of the case, (Hotels.com), by virtue of its contracts with (c)ity hotels, elects of its own accord to collect hotel occupancy taxes," the ruling states. "It may change its business practices at any time, and any injunction should reflect this fact."
Columbus sued Hotels.com and Expedia in 2006.
Tomlinson said a case in state court against online travel site Orbitz is still pending. It likely could reach trial in early 2010, he added.
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