(Pittsburgh) Nov. 24, 2015 Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner has identified $790,053 in
unpaid taxes, penalties and interest this year stemming from the County’s Hotel/Motel tax.
In 2012, the Controller and Treasurer agreed to have the Controller perform certain hotel and rental car audits in order
to achieve greatest efficiency. These included hotel tax compliance audits referred by the Treasurer,
who collects the tax. The 22 reviews this year identified an average amount owed of $35,911.50.
“I am pleased that my team of certified auditors is able to perform this valuable service for the County taxpayers,
and that it will result in significant recoveries for the County,” Wagner said. “The fact that unpaid Hotel/Motel taxes
are so common and the amounts are often so large does lead me to believe that some businesses may not be
fully aware of their responsibilities and that these may need to be better communicated by the County.”
By far the largest unpaid amount identified as being owed was $337,458.44 in back taxes, penalties
and interest dating to 2011 by an Airport-area motel.
The next largest amounts found to be owed were: $98,240.15 by a hotel in the Parkway West corridor;
$96,837.70 by a hotel in the Route 28 corridor; $69,549.52 by a hotel in the City of Pittsburgh;
and $66,537.20 by a hotel in the Parkway West corridor.
Pennsylvania law prohibits specific identifying information from being released regarding
liability for gross receipts taxes.
The County’s 7 percent tax on hotel room rentals brought in almost $32 million in 2014.
Funds from the tax are dedicated to promoting tourism and convention business in Allegheny County,
primarily through allocations to VisitPittsburgh (more than $9 million) and the Sports and Exhibition Authority
(more than $16 million, including debt payments for the David L. Lawrence Convention Center).
The Monroeville Convention Center and County Parks also receive support from the tax.
Controller Wagner has taken action to bring greater transparency to these agencies’ spending. She met with
VisitPittsburgh leaders early this year to determine the propriety of several expenditures, and will include
the SEA in efforts to bring greater scrutiny to public authorities by convening a citizens’ task force to
examine these agencies and advocating changes to state law to provide more meaningful oversight.
“These agencies receive a lot of tax dollars — as these audits show. When you find nearly one million dollars
under a rock after greater inspection, we can all understand just how much money is at stake here,”
Wagner said. “As we enter a new year and my second term in office, I will be using every avenue at my
disposal to ensure that all taxpayer-funded agencies begin to operate with the degree of openness
and accountability that the taxpayers rightfully expect.”
Lou Takacs, Communications Specialist