Tax neglect cost Pinellas County millions - 2010-12-22
Pinellas County Tax Collector Diane Nelson and her staff deserve credit for finally requiring the Church of Scientology to collect bed taxes at its five busy hotels in downtown Clearwater - though it shouldn't have taken 10 years and a call from a St. Petersburg Times reporter to get the ball rolling. Now state officials need to ensure that the church's hotels also are paying sales taxes. Allowing the church's hotels to dodge their taxes is unfair to every other taxpayer in the state. The Church of Scientology is exempted from paying taxes on its facilities used for religious purposes, but not for others such as hotels and restaurants. Yet no one has a good excuse why the county and state have never required the church hotels - including downtown Clearwater's landmark Fort Harrison Hotel - to pay up. The neglect had going on for decades and cost the county millions.