Hunting for a top-rated hotel or searching for the perfect dim sum restaurant? Chances are you will turn to sites such as Yelp, Citysearch or TripAdvisor to guide you through the mass of options most locations have to offer. As the Huffington Post recently noted, “In an increasingly tech-reliant world, most of us do not step foot in a restaurant or buy anything online without doing at least a modicum of Internet research.”
Hoteliers and restaurateurs have long known that positive online reviews equal greater occupancy rates, increased bookings, and greater revenue for their businesses: An influential 2011 Harvard Business School (HBS) study found that “a one-star rating increase on Yelp translated to an increase of 5% to 9% in revenue” for restaurants, while researchers at Cornell found that a one-star swing in a hotel's online ratings on travel sites equate to a 11% sway in room rates.
So how trust-worthy are those 4-star online reviews? Turns out, unsurprisingly, caveat emptor.
A 2013 HBS report estimates that the number of fraudulent reviews on Yelp rose from 5% in 2006 to 20% in 2013.
I'm pleased to introduce guest author Katie Nguyen, a CPA from local accounting firm, Clark Nuber. Katie specializes in state and local taxes for the hospitality industry and has offered to share her experience and knowledge with the Duff on Hospitality readers. Welcome, Katie, and thank you for today's post on some important tax incentives available to Washington's owners and operators. - Greg
I’d imagine that every hotel and restaurant owner/operator is interested to know how to save money on his or her state taxes (while still following all of the applicable laws and rules, of course). As a former Washington Department of Revenue auditor, I've seen many exemptions, credits, and preferential tax rates go unused – primarily because businesses just didn't know that they existed! This post provides a brief explanation of some Washington tax incentives (both old and new) that the hotel and restaurant industry should be taking full advantage of.
Sales/Use Tax Exemption for Items Imparting Flavor or Supporting Food
The Washington legislature recently enacted a measure providing a retail sales and use tax exemption on purchases by restaurants of the following two types of items:
- Items used to impart flavor to foods that are completely or substantially consumed by combustion during the cooking process. Such items could include charcoal, charcoal briquettes, wood chips, grape vines, and the like.
- Items comprised entirely of wood that support the food during the cooking process. Such items could include wood planks, etc.
This exemption expires July 1, 2017.
Commute Trip Reduction Credit
Also recently passed by the state legislation was a bill extending the life of the Commute Trip Reduction B&O tax credit. This credit is a great incentive for those taxpayers who help subsidize the cost of employee public transportation, carpooling, or non-motorized commuting. For each employee, the credit is capped at $60 or 50% of the transportation cost paid (whichever is lower) annually. Be sure to submit your application to the Department of Revenue by January 31, 2014 to get your 2013 credit!
Greg Duff founded and chairs Foster Garvey’s national Hospitality, Travel & Tourism group. His practice largely focuses on operations-oriented matters faced by hospitality industry members, including sales and marketing, distribution and e-commerce, procurement and technology. Greg also serves as counsel and legal advisor to many of the hospitality industry’s associations and trade groups, including AH&LA, HFTP and HSMAI.