Mayor Marion Barry sent to the D.C. City Council yesterday a bill to create a special property tax classification for hotels designed to ease the tax burden on the industry and to ensure that District hotels remain competitive with others in the metropolitan area.
In a proposal sent to council Chairman David A. Clarke late yesterday, Barry recommended that hotels be placed in a classification called "improved commercial real property" and be taxed at a rate of $1.82 per $100 of assessed valuation beginning July 1, the start of the 1986 tax year.
Currently, hotels are included in a category with all other commercial property and vacant land and are taxed at a rate of $2.03 per $100. Under Barry's proposal, the rates for all other commercial property would remain at the current rate. Barry also recommended that rates for the other two property classes -- owner-occupied residential property with a rate of $1.22, and rental residential property with a rate of $1.54 -- remain unchanged.
The tax rates must be in place by Aug. 1. Barry has asked the council to adopt emergency legislation to establish them because there would not be sufficient time to allow for the mandatory 30-day congressional review period before permanent legislation could go into effect.
Permanent legislation would be considered by the council if an emergency measure were enacted.
In a letter to Clarke, Barry noted that assessment increases for hotels have been 38 and 22 percent in the last two tax years compared to increases of 23.2 percent and 10.7 percent for other commercial property. He pointed out that while most commercial buildings could pass on tax increases to tenants, hotels have an unusual problem because they frequently contract for room rates well in advance of occupancy.
Legislation drafted by Barry and sent to the council recognizes hotels as a major source of revenue for the District and declares that "without competitive pricing the District's hotel industry could not continue to make significant contributions to the District's economy."
Last year, Barry recommended creating a special property tax class for hotels in the 1985 tax year, which ends June 30, taxing them at a rate of $1.75 per $100 of assessed value. He also had recommended slight decreases in tax rates for residential property.
That proposal came at a time when the City Council was considering a $32.2 million tax package that included a proposed 5 percent surcharge on personal income taxes. But council members saw a way of eliminating the surcharge by collecting needed revenue from property taxes. They rejected the proposal to create a new tax class for hotels, and lowered the commercial rate from $2.13 to $2.03. The lower rate still produced the necessary additional revenue.
Clarke said yesterday that he had not had an opportunity to review Barry's latest proposal. Council member John Wilson (D-Ward 2), chairman of the Finance and Revenue Committee, said that the special classification for hotels might be viewed differently in the absence of a proposed surtax on income.