Steamboat sales tax increases place among middle of Colorado mountain towns

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— Steamboat Springs sales tax collections have been trending up since their most recent low point in 2010, but among other mountain communities, the city’s increase in 2013 placed in the middle of the pack.

City sales tax collections in 2013 were $18,873,203, about a 7 percent increase compared to 2012. The last time collections crossed the $18 million mark was in 2008.

The city of Steamboat Springs also tracks the taxable sales of nine other Colorado mountain towns, which it estimates based on sales and use tax information.

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The city of Steamboat Springs' increase in taxable sales from 2012 to 2013 is the sixth-highest among the Colorado mountain towns tracked by the city.

Among those towns, Winter Park, Breckenridge and Snowmass posted the top three year-over-year increases.

Steamboat’s percent increase was the sixth-highest in the group.

The city has seen increases across all regions and multiple categories in the past year.

The accommodations tax, which is paid on nightly rentals in city limits, also has seen monthly increases for much of the past year, with an exception during the spring shoulder season.

Larry Mashaw, vice president of sales and marketing for Resort Group and chairman of the Steamboat Lodging Association, said the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association’s lodging barometer is the most reliable measure of visitors and that it showed increases in winter occupancy in mountain condos and hotels. The 1 percent increase in mountain hotel occupancy this winter is especially notable, he said, because of the addition of new rooms at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort.

How much of the increase in accommodations tax collections that could be attributed to an increase in average daily rates for the season is harder to decipher.

There is no single measure of rate information for Steamboat, Mashaw said, but the lodging community is working toward finding a way to organize and appropriately anonymize that information.

Restaurants saw their sales tax collections outpace the previous year from the summer through the winter. In January and February, restaurants accounted for 18 percent of all city sales tax collections.

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The trend for miscellaneous retail sales tax collections in downtown Steamboat Springs is positive.

The downtown region and its miscellaneous retail sector have seen a continued positive trend stretching back multiple years.

For the past two years, the highest overall sales tax collections in downtown have come during July. December sales tax collections, which represented the yearly high point for most of the past decade, have been sliding as retail and overall taxable sales have shifted to the summer.

Snow also appears to have an effect on downtown retail sales. In the impressive snow year of 2010-11, December downtown miscellaneous sales tax collections slid to their lowest level in more than five years. The next season was the low-snow year of 2011-12, which saw the highest December collections in the past five years.

Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett said the late start of winter air service flights this past December cut into downtown business.

The miscellaneous retail sales tax collections in December 2013 were $181,441, which is the lowest total for the month in more than a decade.

Barnett also said the addition of a large business such as Natural Grocers affects how much of the total taxable sales downtown is attributable to smaller retailers.

The number of entities that file sales taxes with the city has increased from 2003 to 2012, but the share of those filers classified as miscellaneous retail has fallen from just more than 73 percent in 2003 to 70 percent in 2012. The city does not track the number of retail entities by region.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz

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