Skydivers and mountain bikers should have to pay a tax to recreate in Grand County, according to one official.
The subject was discussed on Monday, Aug. 6, at the Grand County Airport Board meeting.
Howard Trenholme is the Moab Area Travel Council Chair and representative for the travel council on the Grand County Airport Board.
During the public meeting, Trenholme asked whether taxes are collected from skydivers who use the airport for their jump flights.
“What kind of taxes are collected on all of these activities? … is there a tourism tax at the airport?” Trenholme asked.
Grand County Airport Director Judd Hill said the recreational businesses, like skydiving, do pay sales taxes, but an additional tourism tax is not imposed on recreational activities at the airport.
“That should mean it should be considered a tax for the county, that should be applied to recreational jumps, that’s a tourism activity,” Trenholme said.
Trenholme was referring to the Tourism, Recreation, Culture and Convention Facilities Tax (TRCC).
“I don’t know how you’re going to do that,” said Rory Paxman, the Grand County Council member who serves on the airport board. “It’s like bikes, and we don’t tax biking.”
“I know that tax is applied to any sort of recreation activity,” Trenholme said. “and if it’s not, maybe we should suggest it’s got to start being collected because that’s in the county, too.”
Trenholme, who owns Red Rock Bakery, said, “For example, the sales tax is applied to me as a business owner, but there’s also a restaurant tax. If you’re a lodging outfit, you pay sales tax, but you also pay lodging tax. So, if you’re a tourism recreational activity, you should be paying that TRCC tax in addition to sales tax, or collecting it on behalf of the county. The customer pays the tax.”
From the other side of the room, Skydive Moab co-owner Keith MacBeth spoke up and said, “I don’t like that idea.”
MacBeth said Skydive Moab hasn’t raised its prices in years.
“The price for skydiving has been the same around the country for the last 15 years,” MacBeth said.
MacBeth said that if he were to raise the skydiving prices, he thinks it would cause some people to stay closer to home to skydive, or go someplace else.
“If they have to spend on the gas, it’s going to cost them an extra $100 bucks, so they would probably rather jump in Salt Lake if my price was more,” MacBeth said. “The people who are coming here are already spending a lot because this is a tourist town, so why try to get more? It just seems greedy.”
Hill, MacBeth and the other airport board members all said after the meeting concluded that it was the first they had heard anything about imposing a recreational tax on skydivers.
“This is a future consideration item,” Trenholme clarified. “My feeling is there are a lot of recreational activities around here that are not collected to the same extent as say, lodging, the restaurants, car rentals. There is supposed to be a tax on all of these.”
Hill said he supports the idea to impose the additional recreational tax.
“It would fall under the TRCC tax … it would be an extra tax. I like the idea of it from the perspective that it doesn’t cost (business owners) money to do, so it goes to the customers,” Hill said.
According to Skydive Moab’s records with the airport, 5,950 skydiving jumps were made in May, June and July.
There was no idea as to what the recreational tax rate might be, if it were to be imposed. That tax rate would likely be determined by the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office of the Legislative Auditor General, according to the Utah State Auditor.
But Paxman also shared MacBeth’s feeling that imposing additional taxes on people who come to Grand County for recreation could hurt the tourism economy.
“It comes to a point where it’s like, we have to figure out what we’re doing. The tax, we could do that at the bike path, we could charge people to park there. There’s so many things we could do, but where do we need to stop it?” Paxman said. “If we just keep taxing and taxing it’s going to make people not want to come here. That’s the only income right now, is basically tourism, so if you take that away, what do we do?”
Hill said that if a tax on recreational activities at the airport were collected, it would not be collected from the airport itself, but from the individual business owners who operate and lease space at the airport.
“Taxes, fees, whatnot, it’s one of our grant assurances, money made at the airport belongs to the airport. You can’t have revenue diversion,” Hill said.
MacBeth said he wouldn’t have a problem with paying the TRCC tax if it were imposed, because he “plays by the rules,” but said he wonders what would be taxed next. When one of his skydiving customers brings two or three people with them to Moab, each of those people go into town and spend an average of about $120 a day, he said.
“They’re spending a lot of money here,” MacBeth said. “Are you going to tax bathrooms, are you going to tax to go on BLM trails? What else are you going to tax?”
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“If we just keep taxing and taxing it’s going to make people not want to come here. That’s the only income right now, is basically tourism, so if you take that away, what do we do?”