After spending about 10 years imposing a local transitional occupancy tax that was not approved by Trinidad voters, the City of Trinidad will issue checks to tourists who request refunds within the statute of limitations.
While the tourist occupancy tax was first passed in 1992 and then increased to 8% in 1993, Proposition 218 – which subjects local taxes to voter approval – came into effect in 1996, and the city raised the tax from 8% to 10% in 2011, then planned an increase to 12% in the first quarter of 2022, without local approval. Due to the statute of limitations, tourists can only request a refund from the city if they have stayed within the past three years.
City manager Eli Naffah did not have an estimate of how much money the city had overtaxed tourists from 2011 to 2022, and he noted that the city was following its municipal code in collecting the tax.
“The best way to do this is to contact the city, and then we will go ahead and contact the property manager to verify that this person has stayed there during this period. Property managers only provide us with the fact that someone stayed in their home for X days and then give us the money for those days. They don’t provide us with names, addresses and phone numbers so we can’t contact them, but we will get that information verified by the property managers that they have stayed there and then we can reimburse them,” Naffah said.
Eligible tourists can contact the city by mail at PO Box 390. Trinidad, CA 95570 with the dates they visited the city, the address they wish to mail a check to, and where they stayed during their visit. From there, the city will contact the company that collected the tax, who will then provide the city with the receipts for the visit, and the city will have to calculate the tourist’s surcharge amount before issuing a check.
After receiving the letter, the process should take about a month to send the check, according to Naffah.
Naffah noted that Trinidad is currently working on setting up an email address or a page on its website. Tourists can submit refund requests if they prefer this method instead of physical mail.
The tax, which contributes to the city’s general fund, helps maintain local upkeep, according to Naffah.
“When we have visitors staying here, they impact our infrastructure, our roads, our sidewalks, our trails, all of which are maintained. We are only a city of just over 300 people, yet we receive thousands of visitors who visit the city. So really, visitors have a greater impact on our infrastructure and its maintenance than residents. So this fund (transient occupancy tax) helps to maintain the city, improve the infrastructure and maintain the infrastructure,” Naffah said.
Trinidad’s municipal code requires business owners to keep records for three years, so Naffah didn’t expect the city to run into problems with businesses unable to find receipts for customers this far away.
Trinidad plans to reduce the tourist tax to 12% in the November ballot, a rate that Naffah says is consistent with other towns in Humboldt County.
The Trinidad City Council, which currently has no members who passed the increase in 2011, recently voted unanimously to lower the tax to 8% after being told the increases had to be passed by local voters. .