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Charlotte's A Taxing City For Tourists


State lawmakers have rebuffed Charlotte officials who hoped to double the local restaurant tax in order to renovate Bank of America Stadium.  Instead, the city will have to rearrange existing restaurant tax revenues to help the Panthers. Visitors to Charlotte may find that good news, since WFAE's Julie Rose reports the city already ranks among the most taxing for tourists.

As expensive U.S. cities go, the biggies rule the roost - New York, D.C., L.A., etc.

But set aside the price of the hotel room, rental car or restaurant meal and look just at the taxes on those things.  That's where Charlotte jumps the line. Our taxes aimed at tourists are the third highest in the nation after only - Chicago and New York. 

Credit Julie Rose

  If the Charlotte City Council had gotten its way and tacked another one percent onto the restaurant tax, we'd have jumped ahead of New York to the number two spot.

And don't think this goes unnoticed, says Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority CEO Tom Murray.

"It's most evident that (taxes) matter when we're trying to attract convention business, when meeting planners are taking a look at the total cost of doing their event," says Murray.

Murray says hotel taxes are particularly important to convention planners and when you take that rate alone, Charlotte's fairly competitive, but not cheap.

"Say in the top 100 cities in the U.S. we are the 22nd highest, and we are not the 22nd largest," says Murray.

Charlotte's restaurant tax is pretty middle of road, too – you pay a total rate of 8.25 percent. The highest is Minneapolis at 10.78 percent.  But where Charlotte visitors really feel the tax burden is in the driver's seat. Rent a car at the airport and you'll pay a 26 percent tax. 

Credit Julie Rose

  That's more than any other big city tracked by the Global Business Travel Association and the main reason Charlotte's among the top three most taxing U.S. cities for tourists. And for what?

"Amazing things have happened in this community through using these taxes," says Murray.

You can throw a rock Uptown and you'll hit what he's talking about. Tourism tax dollars built or renovated pretty much every visitor destination from Time Warner Cable Arena to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The big exception is Bank of America Stadium – but that's about to change as the city digs into its tourism tax pockets to help with a $300 million facelift.