BW Council tightens rules on A-Tax, H-Tax use

Receipts Now Required for Final Report

BLYTHEWOOD – As the Feb. 3 deadline approaches for non-profits to submit applications to Blythewood Town Hall for state and local A-Tax (accommodation tax) and H-Tax (hospitality tax) revenue to fund events in fiscal year 2021 and 2022, those applicants are going to be held to a higher accountability in the use and reporting of those funds than applicants have been in the past.

While the state statute’s rules for the use and reporting of A-Tax and H-Tax awards have not changed, town council’s newly approved application forms and guidelines have. Applicants will now be required to adhere to the statute, something not always required by council in the past.

The new applications ask for more information and more complete information up front about the organization and the event. A major change in the application/approval process is the requirement for applicants to provide receipts to council for their expenditures, something that is required by the statute but not by council.

“We’re not asking for anything that the statute has not asked of them,” Steve Hasterok, Director of Conference and Events Center, told The Voice. “We’re just being more clear and concise in what needs to be done. We’re asking more about how the organization is going to do the event and how they’re going to document what they’ve spent and where they spent it. We want applicants to give a total budget, but also break out the A-Tax and H-Tax expenditures and not lump them together in their general budgets. We’re giving them examples of what they can and can’t spend A-Tax and H-Tax money on,” Hasterok said.

“And when they get to the required final report to council after the event has ended, we’re asking them to explain where their numbers (for attendance) came from and for empirical data, like ticket sales, sign in sheets, etc.,” he said.

In the past, no receipts, even for sometimes questionable expenses, have been required by council. Reported attendance numbers have many times been guestimates that sometimes reflected a higher than actual attendance.

“This is an upgrade for us and for the applicants,” Hasterok said. “But it’s a more complete, professional application.”

There are now three separate applications (available on the town website) for awards from state accommodation tax, local accommodation tax and hospitality tax. Each has different rules and regulations to some degree and each draws from a different pot of money. If applicants are unsure which form to download and submit, Hasterok said they can contact him for a determination.

“This is a big overhaul of the application,” Hasterok said. It gives a time line and the exact wording from the statutes so applicants will know what they can and can’t do. It tells them what they can use the money for,” he said.

“We have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure we’re good stewards of the resources that come in and out of town hall,” Mayor Bryan Franklin said at the Nov. 25, 2020 council meeting when the application and guidelines were approved. “I realize that we failed in these fiduciary responsibilities. We were trying to stimulate business in the town, but as Councilman (Donald) Brock pointed out, we’re not getting a receipt back. We need to tighten up and make sure we’re getting the correct information back. So kudos to Mr. Brock for taking charge of this.”

A hiccup in the new process for this fiscal year only is that organizations applying for funds for a spring events will have to submit the one for fiscal year 2021 and 2022 by Feb. 3. After that the forms will be submitted annually.

On the upside, former Town Administrator Brian Cook said at the Nov. 25 meeting that the new application creates a standardized process.

“Everyone will be playing by the same rules,” Cook said, “They will know what’s expected of them, and they’ll know what’s expected of us.”

All A-Tax and H-Tax requests for fiscal year 2021 and 2022 must be received at town hall no later than end of the work day, Feb. 3. For questions about the application process, call Steve Hasterok at 803-724-6305 or email him at [email protected]

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