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HEARD ON THE BEAT / Tourism

Tourism Businesses Lagging on Registration

May 15, 1997|Marla Dickerson | Marla Dickerson covers tourism for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-5670 and at marla.dickerson@latimes.com

Tourism-related businesses that haven't registered for the California Travel and Tourism Referendum may want to hop to it before the June 10 deadline, or face some taxing consequences.

Only about 25% of the 300,000 businesses receiving forms have returned the mandatory registration. That could mean big hassles down the road for scofflaws, according to John Poimiroo, director of the California Division of Tourism.

"They are facing fines, penalties . . . and maybe a higher assessment than they deserve if the referendum passes," Poimiroo said. "It's not a good idea to ignore this thing."

In case you missed it, California's tourism industry is in the midst of deciding whether to tax itself to raise $7.5 million a year for tourism promotion. A combination registration form and ballot was mailed to many of the state's tourism-dependent businesses in March, asking them to vote on a levy of 4.5 cents for every $100 of their tourism revenue.

Even if it passes, businesses deriving less than 8% of their revenue would be exempt from the assessment. Ditto for companies whose assessment amounts to $50 or less. These businesses aren't eligible to cast a mail-in ballot, but that's no reason to toss the registration portion of the form, says Poimiroo.

In fact, companies that owe nothing may have the most to gain by returning their forms. That's because if the levy is approved, exempt businesses that didn't bother to speak up will be hit with an assessment anyway. To get out of it, they'll have to argue their case to the state while fending off the Franchise Tax Board.

"The easiest thing to do is to send it in and get it out of the way," Poimiroo said. "It gets pretty time-consuming later."

More importantly, Poimiroo says, he doesn't want to see a minority of the state's tourism businesses decide the outcome of a referendum that will affect the entire industry.

To get the registration packet, call the state's Travel and Tourism Section hotline at 916-845-7049.

Election results should be available by early August.

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