HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – The Horry County Council opted to continue collecting a 1.5% hospitality fee from all municipalities within the county other than Myrtle Beach.
That decision, made during a special called meeting on Saturday, did not stop the confusion among area business owners and members of county council.
North Myrtle Beach business owner Roy Baransky said he has paid taxes to Horry County for 22 years and said now he is confused about who to pay.
“I am just going to have to go to my accountant, leave it up to them, but probably not even pay it for this quarter, see what happens," Baransky said. "I don’t think I’d be penalized but if I don’t know where to send my money, ya know, it’s their problem to resolve.”
Baransky isn’t the only one who is uncertain. Erin Ray, a bartender at 810 in North Myrtle Beach, is also unsure.
“You don’t wanna not pay one and get in trouble but you don’t wanna double pay and not get anything in return for it,” Ray said.
WMBF News reached out to Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones who said she is not thrilled with the council’s lack of action at the weekend meeting, leaving the rightful recipient of the tax money still up in the air. Jones said she has received several calls by taxpayers, businesses and cities.
WMBF News also contacted all Horry County Council members to hear their stance on Saturday’s meeting.
Councilman Al Allen said he doesn’t agree with the attorney’s opinion or advice on this. He understands they are viewing it from a legal technicality issue but he’s looking at it from an elected official’s position and feels it’s better for the county to not continue collection on this tax within the municipalities but should in the unincorporated areas.
“What are we in Surfside Beach and NMB supposed to do now? Mass confusion for the business community,” wrote business owner and former Horry County Council chairman Mark Lazarus to attorney Henrietta Golding in a Sunday email. “While you know I respect your direction and decision I think this adds burden to our business and flies in the face of the judges order.”
That series of emails, obtained by WMBF News, also included members of Horry County Council.
Lazarus asked county leaders to suspend collecting the hospitality fees in the incorporated areas until an appeal is granted “and then the entire matter is resolved by a higher court.”
“I totally cuncur (sic), mark!” council member Johnny Vaught wrote in response.
Meanwhile, all this comes as the City of Myrtle Beach filed another lawsuit on Monday, asking the court to hold Horry County in contempt, again.
Attorneys filed documents showing businesses in North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach collecting 10.5% sales tax rather than an adjusted 10% sales tax.
The attorneys representing the city argue this is due to the county stating they intend to collect a 1.5% hospitality fee.
At this time it’s unclear what would happen to the extra 0.5% collected if a judge ultimately rules against the county or if businesses would face any repercussions for collecting too much.
On June 21, Judge William Seals Jr. denied Horry County’s motion for a preliminary injunction to keep Myrtle Beach from collecting or enforcing any new fees and granted the city’s motion to not pay a 1.5% hospitality fee to the county as a lawsuit moves through the court system.
The city filed a lawsuit against Horry County, saying the county illegally collected hospitality tax money without its consent.
The revised taxes and fees will go into effect starting Monday, July 1.
“All, now that I-73 is dead and off the table, what is there to argue about?” Horry County Councilman Harold Worley wrote to the rest of the governing body on Sunday. “County Council should stop pushing I-73 and move on. I believe our Municipalities should be allowed to collect their 1% and use as they think appropriate.”
Earlier this year, in addition to the city of Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach and Conway moved to take control of accommodations and hospitality taxes, cutting off the county’s collection of tax dollars. That money was meant to fund I-73.
“We, as elected leaders, Fed, State, County and Cities should stop this madness,” Worley wrote. “It is hurting our business community and wasting taxpayers dollars. They are upset and rightly so.”
The city of North Myrtle Beach has called a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss the June 21 order issued by Seals.
See below for a timeline tracing this ongoing dispute over the hospitality fee: