Letter for Monday, May 13, 2019

Far too many fees and taxes

We recently took a three-day trip to Honolulu to watch my granddaughter play in the state high school softball playoffs. A couple of weeks ago, I made all the arrangements, including flights, hotel and rental car.

By the time I completed all of that, I was amazed at all the different fees and taxes that we have to pay just for a simple, three-day getaway.

• On the airline tickets we pay federal excise tax, passenger segment fee and Sept. 11 security fee;

• On the rental car we pay: concessionaire fee, customer facility charge, frequent mile program and highway use fee, vehicle license fee and, of course, the general excise tax (with all of that paid for separately, the basic charge for the car must be close to all profit).

• Then for the hotel we pay the GET and the transient accommodations tax. If it weren’t for the “kama‘aina special” we’d also be paying for daily parking and, of course, the “resort fee” (BTW, why isn’t that just included in the cost for the room?).

All of this is so overwhelming, especially to us local folks who just want to take a few days off the island and (face it brah) a chance to eat some different ono food (Zippy’s, Highway Inn, Red Lobster, Shirokiya, or even Denny’s.)

But of all these extra costs, the one that really stands out, and is the biggest of them, is the TAT. That’s an additional 10.25 percent tacked on to your hotel bill.

Although “files.hawaii.gov” does not explain why we pay the TAT, we all know that the a portion of the TAT collected by the state is distributed to the four counties. That money is used by the counties to maintain county facilities that are heavily used by the “transients” (tourists).

Oh! But wait. As residents of the state of Hawaii, don’t we already pay for all of that through our state income tax (which tourists don’t pay)? And through our property taxes (which tourists don’t pay)? And through the GET, which we pay for everything just to live?

With this letter, I’m proposing that perhaps one of our “representatives” to our state Legislature would draft up and present a bill to exempt all residents of Hawaii from paying the transient accommodations tax.

I realize that this will surely result in a decrease in TAT revenues, but the shortage can easily be made up with an additional increase in the TAT rate that will affect visitors and not the residents of our state. This would not relieve us of being the highest-taxed state, but it would surely be a good start.

I would bet that any elected official that would propose a bill such as this, and got it passed, would likely guarantee himself or herself a reelection for a few years.

Larry Joseph Arruda, Kapaa

  1. Jake May 13, 2019 4:10 am Reply

    Ok, I’m with you Larry, but name me a tax…….any tax…….. that was eliminated? Never happens. Once you pass a tax, the County will milk it through perpetuity. You are on a hamster wheel if you want to reduce or eliminate taxes.

    How about this………..an “Open Finance Website” for all counties in Hawaii? An interactive, on-line tool, that lets the public, residents, investors, business owners, and government employees explore the County’s budget through charts and graphs AND…….one more time………..AND……………… allows the public to comment on expenditures via electronic media, with County feedback.

    I would LOVE to know where all the TAT goes for “the counties to maintain county facilities that are heavily used by the “transients” (tourists).” Um, bathrooms anybody???? Really where is this money going? I would love to have one succinct, online chart, maybe with some line items, to tell me what projects cost, and payments made. Money brought in, and money spent.

    I think the word is “Transparency”. Don’t just dump all the information on the web and have people try to figure it out, but make it so the average Joe can say “Oh, so they took in $55 million from TATs last year, and only spent $20 million of it…….where did the rest go? Oh, I see, it went for more County raises”…….

  2. randy kansas May 13, 2019 7:12 am Reply

    taxes and fees and red tape…one of the reasons that Hawaii ranks around 49th in the nation as places to conduct business;

    how about a tax on all of the full time residents for all of the broken washing machines, trash, and abandoned cars on the side of the road…and cigarette butts, beach glass, dirty diapers and cans on the beach…most likely not those pesky tourists doing that…


  3. Ed Cullen , Princeville May 13, 2019 4:58 pm Reply

    Very interesting to see the reaction to the number and types of taxes paid to make a simple trip for a weekend. Yet the constant complaint expressed in most letters s that the government is not spending enough to support affordable housing, public transportation, public restrooms at the beaches, green initiatives or cultural activities such as buying the land at Coco Palms.
    Despite the crazy high taxes we face, the clamor is for more government spending , with the war cry of tax the tourists ! Even our local tourism agency admits we have reached capacity in this area. Want to tax the current level of tourists at a higher rate ? Kill the golden goose, but remember if the golden goose is killed, those of us left on island will have to fill the void.

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