“Mass Confusion” over hospitality taxes, claims Horry County Treasurer

Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – The treasurer of Horry County is claiming “mass confusion” over who should be paying and collecting hospitality taxes.

In court documents filed on Wednesday, Angela Jones, the Horry County Treasurer, asked a judge to decide quickly from which municipalites the county can continue to collect hospitality taxes. According to the notice of motion filed in court, Jones is also asking for clarification about her role as treasurer.

In the motion, Jones says she has a vital interest in how the hospitality fees are collected. According to the motion, Jones is the only official who “collects fees and taxes for both the county and the municipalities.”

On June 21, a judge ruled in favor of Myrtle Beach, which claimed in court documents that an agreement to give portions of hosptality taxes and fees to Horry County had expired. The judge denied an injunction which would have forced Myrtle Beach to continue giving the money to Horry County.

Days later, Horry County leaders said they intended to continue collecting the money from other municipalities in the county such as North Myrtle Beach, Conway, Surfside, Loris, Aynor, etc.

An affidavit of Angela Jones filed on Wednesday said that the judge’s decision, “only includes the City of Myrtle Beach and that no other municipalities are affected. Horry County Council has advised me (Jones) to continue to collect the hospitality fees in all other cities besides Myrtle Beach.”

Jones’ affidavit says there is “mass confusion” about who is supposed to continue giving a portion of their hospitality taxes to Horry County. The affidavit goes on to say the other municipalities “take the position that the June 21, 2019 Order applies to them and that they are to be included in the Court Order.”

Through the affidavit, Jones is asking the court to clarify whether the order applies to those municipalities. In the affidavit, Jones claims she and her staff have recieved numerous calls from various business owners and the news media about who the hospitality fee is to be paid to.

The affidavid also asks the court to clarify what will happen to business owners who continue to give the hospitality tax money to the county instead of a municipality, or vice versa. According to the affidavit, the business is liable for those fees if they are not paid to the correct entity.

The affidavit also says the class-action lawsuit filed by the City of Myrtle Beach seeks “class certification.” Through the affidavit, Jones claims it would be impossible to determine the names and addresses of the “residents, vacationers and tourists who pays those fees.”

Here’s an example given in the affidavit:

“As an example, if you were to go to the local Chick-Fil-A restaurant and buy a sandwich, the hospitality fee would be added on to the price of the sandwich but it would be impossible to determine the name of the person who paid that fee. Thus, there is no identifiable class.”

Affidavit of Angela Jones

Jones is asking the court to clarify several issues, including:

  • Does the Order in the case dated and filed June 21, 2019 apply to any other municipality or governmental entity except for the City of Myrtle Beach?
  • Does the Order require the Treasurer’s Office and its employees to receive the hospitality fees pursuant to the Court’s Order when in fact the class members who paid those fees are unidentifiable?
  • Is any municipality, including the City of Myrtle Beach, entitled to receive the hospitality fees pursuant to the Court’s Order when in fact the class members who paid those fees are unidentifiable?
  • What will happen to those businesses and individuals who pay the hospitality fee to the City of Myrtle Beach if this Court finds that Horry County’s hospitality ordinance is valid (the City of Myrtle Beach’s hospitality fee is less than what Horry County is currently charging)? Will the businesses be liable for that difference?
Angela Jones, the Horry County Treasurer said in an affidavit filed on July 3, 2019 that she is not taking sides in the litigation over tourism taxes and fees.

Jones says in the affidavit that she wants, “to make absolutely clear that I am not taking sides in this litigation. My only and sole interest is representing fairly and honestly all of the taxpayers and businesses in Horry County, whether they be located in the city or in the County. This affidavit is my attempt to point out to the Court the confusion and severe harm that may occur without some direction by the Court.”

Among the documents also filed on Wednesday are affidavits from Karen Polhemus and Alten Driggers.

According to the affidavits, Polhemus is the supervisor in the hospitality and business license department; which is a part of the Horry County Treasurer’s office. Driggers is a supervisor in the business license department; which is also part of the Horry County Treasurer’s office.

Through the affidavits, Polhemus and Driggers claim they recieved “approximately 55 phone calls prior to July 1, 2019 questioning whether they should still collect the 1.5% hospitality fees…”

Polhemus claims the department, “cannot properly inform them as to what action to take.”

Driggers claims, “there is mass confusion as to how to proceed, especially for those businesses who have locations inside and outside the city limits.”

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