(Chapter 523, Article II. Of the Suffolk County Code)
Imposition of Tax
Every facility providing short-term lodging (less than 30 days) for a fee in Suffolk County is required to collect an occupancy tax from persons occupying such rooms at the rate of 3% of the per-diem rental rate charged for each room. This law applies to all lodging facilities including residences and tourist homes, not just traditional hotels and motels. See the following definitions as defined in Chapter 523, Article II of the Suffolk County Code.
Hotel or Motel- Any facility providing lodging on an overnight basis, including but not limited to those facilities designated and commonly known as “bed & breakfasts,” inns, cabins, cottages, campgrounds, tourist homes and convention centers.
Operator- Any person operating a hotel/motel in the County of Suffolk, including but not limited to, the owner, or proprietor of such premises, lessee, sub-lessee, mortgagee in possession, licensee or any other person otherwise operating such a hotel or motel.
Permanent Resident- A person occupying any room or rooms in a hotel or motel, as defined above, for at least thirty (30) consecutive days, of which their occupancy is tax exempt under this law.
All lodging facilities must submit a registration application to the County within ten (10) days of the first lodging rental. Upon receipt of the application, the County will issue a Certificate of Authority which empowers its owners/operators to collect the occupancy tax. Failure to register with the County Comptroller’s Office as required shall result in the imposition of a fine of $50 for each day of nonregistration for each lodging facility not registered.
Certificate of Authority
Each Certificate of Authority shall be prominently displayed in the facility by the operator in such a manner that it may be seen and come to the notice of all occupants and persons seeking occupancy. Such Certificates are non-assignable and non-transferable and shall be surrendered immediately to the County Comptroller upon the cessation of business at the named lodging facility or upon its sales or transfer.
Remittance of the Tax
All registered lodging facilities are required to file a tax return and remit the occupancy tax on a quarterly basis. Quarterly returns must be filed for each facility operated for the preceding three-month period ending the 20th of March, June, September, and December of each year. Willfully failing or refusing to collect and/or remit the tax is a misdemeanor punishable by an additional fine of up to $1,000 and/or a year in prison.
Penalties and Interest
For tax returns that are postmarked after the 20th of March, June, September and December, facilities are assessed a 10% penalty on the amount of tax owed; plus interest at the rate of 1% of such tax for each month or fraction thereof of delay commencing thirty (30) days after such return was required to be filed.
Information reported on tax returns is confidential and not available to others under the Freedom and Information Law. County employees are prohibited from disclosing this information except by a court order or as part of a legal action by a County agency.
Rentals in Duration of 30 Days or More/Permanent Resident
In accordance with the Suffolk County hotel motel occupancy tax law (Chapter 523-9 of the Suffolk County Code) and the New York State law authorizing the occupancy tax (NYS Tax Law Section 1202-O), occupants of a rental facility (hotel, motel, B&B, tourist home) for 30 consecutive days or longer are considered “permanent residents” and are not subject to the 3% occupancy tax. These laws imply that once an occupant qualifies as a “permanent resident” the tax can no longer be imposed and that taxes previously collected are refundable to the occupant. It should be noted that, although general New York State law defines a “permanent resident” as an occupant after 90 days for state sales tax purposes, the above-cited State law granting authority to municipalities to collect occupancy tax defines a “permanent resident” as an occupant after 30 consecutive days. Consequently, hotel/motel facilities must refund the occupancy tax collected during the first 30 days as soon as the occupant surpasses the 30 days of continuous occupancy. The hotel/motel should be aware that any refund of this nature may be taken as a credit on the following quarter tax remittance form; however, an explanation and backup must be provided for the credit.