Quick Guide to Business Travel

Overburdened By Travel Taxes?

The government's got its hands in your travel expenses--and you may never benefit.

Feeling overtaxed lately? That's probably because you are if you travel often on business, according to Alexander Nikoloff, a research analyst for Michigan State University's World Travel & Tourism Tax Policy Center. His research suggests travelers are carrying more than their fair share of the tax burden and rarely benefit from the levies they pay. "It's taxation without representation," contends Nikoloff.

Researchers at Michigan State University in East Lansing have found that in cities like Buenos Aires, a four-night stay could set you back $272 in hotel taxes alone. The numbers also indicate that state, local and national governments around the world rely more than ever on travelers for tax revenues.

According to the Travel Industry Association of America, travelers are affected by high taxes in this country, too. The average international arrival or departure fee in the United States is $12, which doesn't include a $6.50 Customs Service user fee, a $6 Immigration and Naturalization Service user fee and a $1.45 Agriculture Department fee. Most hotel taxes--also called bed taxes--are in the 12 percent range. Those charges aren't always quoted when you're shopping for rates, either.

It'd be one thing if the money collected from travelers went to road improvements, police or new terminals. However, many of the newest taxes will pay for improvements that will never affect the average traveler. New levies are funding athletic stadiums in Boston, Houston and San Antonio.

Avoiding the charges is close to impossible, particularly if you're traveling on business. Always ask whether there are any additional taxes when you request a quote on a room, car or airline ticket--at least then you won't be surprised.

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This article was originally published in the April 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Quick Guide to Business Travel.

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