Ask Amy: Husband and wife seek to settle argument on whether to tip on total or before tax when dining out


Dear Amy: Two years ago (prior to the pandemic), my husband and I went on a cruise with longtime friends. They then asked us to join them again.

The date is approaching, and we are having a huge problem letting my sister know we are going. I know this is a first-world problem, but my sister is a widow and counts on us to provide her with all her socialization.

My husband has been a saint in making her a part of all our vacations, dinners out, etc., with no complaint. We have been married for 52 years and my sister has been widowed for 20 years.

She is always complaining of how she is bored and feels no one does anything to provide her with “things to do,” or asking her to be part of vacations, dinner parties, etc.

We are at a loss on how to tell her we are leaving without her on this trip.

She is wealthy, we are not, but she has no one to go with her on adventures.

Past experiences when this has happened have been incredibly unpleasant. She becomes very depressed and will go for weeks without speaking to us.

It makes us feel guilty for going without her, but we also believe we are entitled to have our own life. There are many past familial issues with my mother who was mentally ill, leading to feelings of abandonment and guilt.

Is there any way we can tell her we are leaving for nine days without her feeling left out and abandoned?

We have considered offering to go with her on a trip of her choosing at Christmas, but we don’t know how to approach the situation.

It is causing me (and my husband) much anxiety.

I actually vomit due to anxiety over this.

What can we do?

– Guilty

Dear Guilty: Your sister is something of an emotional vampire, and your generosity toward her over the last 20 years has enabled her to control you to the extent that you and your husband have already determined that you won’t be able to enjoy a wonderful vacation without her.

That’s how powerful and successful her training has been!

If you had established some reasonable boundaries years ago, your sister might have her own life by now.

There are many wonderful opportunities for guided travel available to solo travelers with the means and motivation.

If you don’t have the backbone to tolerate your sister’s tantrum, then you should just give in, stay home, and devote yourselves to her needs.

However, you might liberate yourselves from this control if you prepare yourselves for her reaction and simply choose not to be triggered by it this time.

You say, “We’re leaving for a cruise at the end of the month and will be gone for nine days. We’re pretty excited and looking forward to it, and we’ll see you when we return.”

Do not offer her alternate vacations in order to appease her. That is just reinforcing behavior which you are seeking to change.

Dear Amy: My husband and I always have this disagreement whenever we go out for a meal.

Do you base your tip on the total amount (like I do) or before the tax (like my husband)? Please settle this for me!

– Big tipper in NJ

Dear Tipper: Strictly speaking, if you tip on the total (including tax), then part of your tip is actually based on the tax itself – not on services rendered.

However, I base my tip on the total, and then add some.

I do this because I once waited tables.

Also, because I can.

The U.S. Department of Labor publishes a table of minimum wages for tipped employees (which vary by state). Ask your husband to take a look at this chart (search on DOL.gov) and ask if shaving a few pennies off of a tip from these truly minimal hourly minimums is really worth it to him.

Dear Amy: I was disappointed by your response to “Tired.” This letter was written by a mom who didn’t like it when her adult children kept bouncing back home for long or short stays.

You should have suggested that she give them jobs to do! At the very least, each visiting child should pay for/prepare one meal for the family.

– Never an Empty Nest

Dear Never: I did suggest that “Tired” should set up some boundaries in terms of cooking and cleaning, but yes – giving them specific jobs would be better.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2021 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.





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North Hampshire residents to pay ‘more for less’ as council tax set to rise


Parish councillors have once again vented their frustration at the current tip arrangement, with one saying North Hampshire residents would soon be paying “more for less”.

With Hampshire County Council facing an £80m black hole, council tax is expected to go up another 3.99 per cent for the forthcoming tax year – taking the amount paid to the county council for an average band D property up to around £1,400.

Despite this rise, North Hampshire residents continue to face either a 25-mile round trip to the household waste recycling centre in Andover or pay £7 to use the tip in Newtown Road in West Berkshire – a situation labelled “Hobson’s Choice” by Highclere Parish Council chairman Brad Norton.

The household waste recyling centre in Newtown Road.
The household waste recyling centre in Newtown Road.

At a parish council meeting last week, Mr Norton queried whether Highclere residents were essentially subsidising the rest of Hampshire residents by paying more in council tax than they received in services.

He said he had made a Freedom of Information request to councillor Rob Humby, the county council’s executive member for economy, transport and environment, on the matter but received no response.

Mr Norton said: “I look at this quite simplistically – how much do they get from Highclere residents and how much do they spend in Highclere?

“If there’s a surplus of the money they receive from the parish why can’t it go towards subsidising our trips to the HWRC?

“What’s the expenditure and what’s the income? I’d be very surprised if there’s a deficit.”

He added that with council tax set to rise again, the parish’s residents were set to pay “more for less”, and that there were many “disgruntled” residents.

The meeting was also attended by county councillor Tom Thacker (Whitchurch and the Cleres), who said there needed to be a regional or national solution which would allow residents to use whichever tip they wanted.

He said: “Hampshire County Council’s obligation is to provide a HWRC in Hampshire.

“If they wanted to do it to the minimum they could have set up a massive recycling centre in Winchester, but we’ve actually got at least 11 large ones around the county.

“The fact is we’ve lobbied Kit [Malthouse, the North West Hampshire MP] that we need to be able to have a regional or national solution which is funded, then Hampshire tax payers can travel to whichever HWRC is most convenient for them.”

Mr Norton said it wasn’t a closed matter with Highclere residents and would “rumble on and on”.

The debate came three weeks after East Woodhay parish councillors also voiced their frustration at the current arrangements, saying they felt they were paying twice to get rid of rubbish.





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Manatee County to use tourism tax revenue to fuel these projects


Manatee County will use a windfall of tourism tax dollars to pay for major projects to expand the Bradenton Area Convention Center and enhance the Premier Sports Campus.

Tourism has come roaring back in Florida this year, and it could just be the tip of the iceberg as international travel returns. 

Manatee County already has generated $22.78 million in tourism tax revenue as of the end of September.

That is a significant increase over previous years. For instance, between 2017 and 2020, the tax generated between $13.3 million and $15.87 million in revenue per year. 

The upward trend is not slowing down, Manatee County Chief Financial Officer Jan Brewer told county commissioners at a meeting on Tuesday, citing a state estimate released last week projecting that Manatee County could raise up to $26.9 million next year from the tax.

Analysis: Consumer spending remains strong in Sarasota and Manatee, despite COVID-19 pandemic

More: Retailers in Sarasota-Manatee prepare for the holiday shopping season

New hotel to help enhance convention center in Palmetto

The tourist development tax is a 5% levy on all lodging stays of less than six months. The revenue can be used on things like beach maintenance and renourishment, sports stadiums, and promotions. 

There are several projects already in line for funding, and county commissioners on Tuesday will consider using $2 million to design a planned expansion of the Bradenton Area Convention Center and Premier Sports Campus.

The convention center expansion is a part of a grander effort that includes the construction of a new eight-story Sheraton luxury hotel.

The project would add a connected walkway to the hotel, as well as a multipurpose room that could accommodate banquet or theatre-style seating, along with cosmetic improvements. 

The county already has allocated $16.4 million for the convention center as part of its capital improvement plan, said Elliott Falcione, director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Sheraton will feature 252 rooms, a full-service restaurant, 10,000 square feet of meeting space, a rooftop lounge, ballroom space, and outdoor event space with a resort-style pool, splash pad, and tiki bar. Additional retail components could be added to the site as well.

Crews have started foundational construction on the site, with plans to go vertical in December and open by the end of 2023, said Tony DeRusso, a managing director at Improvement Network Development Partners, the hotel developers.

The hotel is projected to generate $17 million in tourism tax over its first 20 years, create about 232 jobs, and generate about $479 million in taxable sales and purchases, officials said. 

The convention center has an economic impact of $6.85 million per year, Falcione said. That number will nearly triple to $20.25 million with the planned expansion and hotel, based on third-party data by research firm Impact Dashboard.

“This thing is going to be used a lot,” Commissioner George Kruse said at a meeting Tuesday. “You put that hotel, food and beverage there, and outdoor entertainment. I think this is going to be a massive game-changer.”

Competing with other sports facilities

Commissioners also will consider the design of the 147-acre Premier Sports Campus at their public meeting on Tuesday.

The campus has become a regional destination for out-of-town sports tournaments, and the enhancements are meant to bolster the facility to maintain an edge over other competitors in the region.

This past year, Premier generated about $50 million for the economy, Falcione said. 

The county allocated $6.4 million in capital improvements for the facility this year, including the addition of 400 parking spaces, a 6,500-square-foot permanent, an air-conditioned tent, a new entrance sign, a new scoreboard, and dressing rooms in the primary stadium.

Other projects could include water taxi and hotel parking

At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners will consider a request to amend the tourism tax ordinance to allocate $2 million for construction design for the Premier Sports Campus and convention center enhancements.

Once the designs are complete, Falcione said a more accurate cost for each project will be presented to the board, most likely in early 2022.

A push to finally bring a water taxi system to Manatee County also is bubbling up through the Tourism Development Council. The water taxi would connect Bradenton to the cities on Anna Maria Island.

Related: Manatee County pushes for water taxi, OKs Mote center, other Anna Maria Island projects

And: Manatee County hopes to address beach parking with proposed Holmes Beach parking garage

Falcione said last year 60% of people staying in downtown Bradenton hotels took day trips to Anna Maria Island and that a water taxi could help alleviate some of the traffic congestion on roadways.

Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge has indicated that he would like to use tourism tax revenue to build a parking garage for beachgoers in Holmes Beach. 

The city of Holmes Beach also is considering a request for funding for pedestrian mobility improvements on Gulf Drive that would connect to the city of Bradenton Beach, which is undertaking the same project within its own city boundaries. 



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Texas border sees bump in sales tax revenues despite COVID-19 travel restrictions


McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Despite Title 42 travel restrictions still in effect on the Southwest border, sales tax revenue figures for border cities and counties within Texas increased in August almost border-wide and that means more money for border communities this month, according to new data released by the Texas Comptroller’s office.

Sales tax allocations for October, which are based on sales tax revenue from August, show cities and counties statewide will get a revenue increase of about 20%. But on the border, most cities will receive an even bigger increase because of a bump in sales taxes during August.

That’s encouraging news for border communities that have suffered under travel restrictions — imposed in March 2020 under the Trump administration and extended through the Biden administration to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

From El Paso, in West Texas, to the Gulf Coast city of Brownsville, border cities, on average had a 23% increase in sales tax revenues in August, the Texas Comptroller reported this week. Some border sales tax allocations include:

  • McAllen is getting a 23% increase from August 2020 and will receive $6.3 million, up from $5.2 million.
  • Laredo: A 23.4% increase and getting $3.9 million, up from $3.2 million.
  • Brownsville: A 23% increase and getting $3.95 million, up from $3.2 million.
  • Presidio: A 36% increase and getting 41,066, up from $30,111.
  • Eagle Pass: A 22.8% increase and getting $445,291, up from $362,445.
  • El Paso: A 16.5% bump and receive $9 million, up from $7.7.
  • Roma, in Starr County: A 3.7% increase and getting $114,134, up from $110,056.

There were some exceptions, however.

The South Texas city of Del Rio had only a 1% increase in sales tax revenue in August. However, that number is expected to greatly increase for September sales tax figures because that is when thousands of law enforcement and federal agents, journalists and volunteers descended upon the remote border town as a caravan of mostly Haitian migrants camped under the international bridge and brought worldwide attention to the city with a population of just 35,000.

ABOVE LEFT: An estimated 15,000 migrants, mostly Haitians, camped under the Del Rio International Bridge, as seen from atop the bridge on Sept. 17, 2021. RIGHT: A National Guardsman patrols the entrance to the bridge on Sept. 17, 2021. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photos)

Rio Grande City in Starr County saw a decrease of 5% in sales tax figures, which some attribute to Operation Lone Star, a program in which Gov. Greg Abbott has surged hundreds of Texas troopers to border communities to combat a surge in migrants.

Starr County Judge Eloy Vera earlier told Border Report that the presence of added troopers deters some residents from venturing to shop because many are low-income and have older vehicles, some not in compliance with state laws, and they don’t want to risk getting a ticket.

An examination by Border Report of tickets issued by Department of Public Safety troopers and other law enforcement found a disproportionate number of citations issued in Starr and Hidalgo Counties due to the increase in state troopers.

On Sept. 20, Abbott announced a $100 million grant program affiliated with Operation Lone Star to border communities to help enhance security as well as funds to border communities.

“This program will strengthen our response to the crisis at the border and help keep our communities safe,” Abbott said in a statement.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is surrounded by nine other governors on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, at Anzalduas Park in Mission, Texas, on the banks of the Rio Grande. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

During a visit to the Rio Grande Valley on Wednesday, along with nine other governors from across the nation, Abbott reiterated his support for Operation Lone Star and said Texas communities are bearing the fiscal brunt of border security, which he calls a federal responsibility.

“Texas and other states are taking action to do the federal government’s job,” Abbott said.

The state had applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for emergency funds citing the border crisis but was rejected by the Biden administration. On Thursday, Abbott sent a letter to President Biden to appeal the denial of funds.





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Online Travel Update: Texas seeks to impose new lodging tax on hotel bookings; Expedia launches rebrand pushing for post-pandemic travel; DayAway specializes in “Beyond Bed” ancillaries | Foster Garvey PC


This week’s Update features a number of stories on the largest online distributors as well as a story on an interesting new player that focuses exclusively on hoteliers’ “beyond bed” ancillaries and experiences. Enjoy.

Proposed Texas Tax on Travel Services Likely to be Passed on to Hoteliers
(“ASTA blasts proposed Texas hotel tax,” April 19, 2021 via Travel Weekly US)
As part of the state and local government revenue grab that traditionally occurs during any economic downturn, Texas is seeking to enact legislation that will impose a new 6 percent lodging tax on hotel bookings in its state. Like other occupancy or sales taxes, the new tax is calculated on the price paid for guest rooms or meeting space, but unlike other traditional lodging taxes, the “price” also includes all associated booking fees and charges. Although the new tax is purportedly intended to target online travel agency (OTA) service fees and charges, traditional brick and mortar travel agents who charge their clients trip planning or advisory fees will also be targets of the new tax. So, if this new tax is intended to target the service fees and charges often imposed by OTAs, why should hotels care? For years now, OTAs of all shapes and sizes have routinely required hoteliers to pay taxes on the commissions, compensation or other fees or charges paid the OTAs. While these provisions have largely sat dormant – except for the occasional VAT withholding squabble – these contract provisions may become far more relevant as more states inevitably consider a similar travel service tax (particularly those spurned in previous litigation seeking to impose traditional occupancy taxes on OTA service charges).

Expedia’s Push for Post-Pandemic Travel
(“Expedia unveils rebrand in major push to capture travel demand,” April 19, 2021 via Phocus Wire)
Much of the online travel press last week was dedicated to Expedia’s recently announced rebrand. On April 19, millions of Expedia users received emails introducing them to the “new” Expedia. So what is new? Other than a new logo and tag line, noticeable changes to the Expedia website and mobile application include new home screen layouts (including notably a prominent tab at the top of the website for owners interested in listing their vacation properties with Expedia); use of a single uniform platform for the booking of hotels, flights, cars and experiences; new itinerary building functionality; side-by-side comparisons of accommodations based on available amenities; the display of activities near travelers’ chosen accommodations; and, of course, improved functionality for enrolling new members of Expedia’s loyalty program. As part of its overall rebrand effort, Expedia is planning a new creative campaign supported by the largest marketing spend the brand has seen in the past five years.

DayAway Specializes in “Beyond Bed” Ancillaries
(“DayAway may be built in Covid times but founder Martha Waslen says it will last long beyond pandemic,” April 21, 2021 via WIT)
Six-month old distributor, DayAway, hopes to disrupt and forever change the “beyond bed” experience. Seeking to leverage the largely unused gyms, spas, pools and other amenities often found at luxury hotels (particularly over the past 12 months), Singapore-based DayAway hopes to offer guests a curated inventory of activities and experiences that can be done in a day’s time and around hotels. While aggregators of similar experiences and activities may exist, DayAway doesn’t intend to compete with these volume-based discount aggregators. Instead, DayAway hopes to establish relationships with each of its supplier partners, by among other things, moving away from volume-based fees and co-owning the customer data that it collects from users with its suppliers.


Other News:

Four Key Takeaways From Skift’s Loyalty and Subscription Summit
April 22, 2021 via Skift Travel News (subscription may be required)
The pandemic forced travel brands to get smarter by using their loyalty programs to engage with consumers even when those customers aren’t traveling. That new skillset will have a lasting impact even after the pandemic eventually fades.

Booking Adds Tours and Activities From Viator in Their First Partnership
April 21, 2021 via Skift Travel News (subscription may be required)
Following its partnership with TUI’s Musement brand last year, Booking.com added a major tours and activities partner, Tripadvisor’s Viator, to its growing attractions business. In their first partnership in the sector, Booking and Viator announced Wednesday (April 21) that thousands of Viator’s attractions, tours and activities would soon be available for travelers on Booking.com.

How the Pandemic Is Reshaping Hotel Distribution Strategies and Onboarding
April 22, 2021 via Phocus Wire
In March of this year, hotel consultant Thibault Catala posted on LinkedIn about his frustration in trying to help a new hotel in Greece become listed on Expedia Group websites. Catala shared the response he received from Expedia Group, which said that “due to the reduced demand for your market, we will not be able to effectively support your business.”

Tripadvisor Bets Subscriptions Will Foster Resilience in the Travel Industry
April 21, 2021 via Skift Travel News (subscription may be required)
Tripadvisor believes its new subscription product could become a new business line generating more than $1 billion a year. But that will likely only happen if the company can make the program about more than just a mechanism for consumers to get discounts on hotels, experiences and other travel offerings.



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Tax Compliance Firm Blue Dot Secures $32M in Funding


Tax compliance solution provider Blue Dot has secured $32 million in a Series C funding round, the Israel-based startup announced. Led by Ibex Investors in partnership with Lutetia Technology Partners, the funding will support Blue Dot’s expansion into North America and Europe. Blue Dot cited the recent growth in tax and corporate expense compliance activities among corporations. Originally named VATBox, the startup launched in 2013 and focused on providing value-added tax and goods and services tax recovery through its AI-driven platform. Since then, it has expanded to cover other tax-compliance matters, including employee benefit taxation and corporate income tax expense deductibility, and became SAP Concur’s exclusive tax compliance solution provider for corporate clients. Blue Dot has offices in London, Paris, Munich, New York and Tel Aviv. 



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Missoula travel organizations support measure modernizing lodging tax collections


MISSOULA — The Montana Lodging and Hospitality Association with Destination Missoula is pushing back against opposition to a bill intended to apply the same rules on tax collections for all travel partners, including national platforms like Airbnb and Expedia.

The Travel Technology Association last week voiced opposition to Senate Bill 52, saying it would introduce “new taxes” on online travel agents, including Orbitz, Expedia, Priceline and Travelocity.

But Whitney Bergmann, board chair of the Missoula Tourism Business Improvement District and a representative of Destination Missoula and the Montana Lodging and Hospitality Association, said the technology association was mispresenting the bill.

It isn’t a new tax but rather, an update of language initially written before the digital age, she said.

“It requires an update of the lodging tax language that makes it clear that it’s applicable to anyone selling lodging rooms in Montana, where the large platforms have been able to occasionally skirt that at times by virtue of language that was written in the 90s without them in mind,” Bergmann said. “It’s really just a clarification of language, that the existing lodging tax applies to everyone, from hotels to large hosting platforms like Airbnb.”

The bill sailed through its respective House and Senate committees this month and is set for final preparation. Once signed into law, the measure will revise the state’s lodging facility use tax and Montana’s sales tax on lodging and car rentals.

It will also require all travel agent platforms to collect and remit those taxes to the state, including digital travel agents.

“They will be responsible for the collection and remittance rather than having that fall on the local property owner,” said Bergmann. “Because their platform didn’t have that built in, necessarily, you have a lot of onus on the property owner on how that’s managed and applied. This makes it so that’s uniformly applied to the platform rather than the property owner.”

Many travelers book trips through online agents like Travelocity and Expedia, making them responsible for hundreds of thousands of bookings in Montana each year.

The Travel Technology Association believes the measure will tax those agents fees, thus making Montana more expensive as a destination. For the state’s hotels, bed and breakfasts, and lodging establishments that partner with those agents, the tax could make distribution more costly, the lobby group contends.

“New taxes that increase travel costs will deter visitors and make Montana residents travel to other states, forcing the state to miss out on recovering some of the $4.9 billion spent by tourists in Montana,” Shur said.

“This new tax will also put Montana’s recovery behind other states, and the state will not realize the tax windfall of travel demand when our nation turns the corner on the pandemic and begins to see economic spending approach pre-pandemic levels.”

Bergmann disagreed, saying the association’s description of the measure as a “new tax” is misleading. The tax has been in place for decades, she said, and the new bill just modernizes the language and applies it evenly to all travel groups.

“It’s intended to create uniformity for the Department of Revenue,” she said. “It has language that’s not clear in terms of how they can enforce and how collections and remittance should look. That language update is intended to provide DOR clarity.”





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Tax Tip of the week: How to get help filing your taxes


 

Tax season is upon us. Tune in each Friday for a weekly tip on how to file your taxes from the Alaska Business Development Center.

 

Tax Tip #1: The Alaska Business Development Center has traveled across Alaska to provide free tax services for 25 years. This year, in lieu of travel, assistance is available from ABDC’s Anchorage office. 2020 was tough, but your taxes don’t have to be. For more information and eligibility, visit our website at www.abdc.org.

 

About the weekly Tips:

Normally, the Alaska Business Development Center would send out teams to rural communities around the state to help people file. But this year, they’re providing assistance remotely. To get the word out about how to file taxes, ABDC is sending us a weekly tax tip, which we air during the Friday morning and noon newscasts.

 

 

Contact the author at [email protected] or 907-842-2200.



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