The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) claimed victory and an unbroken record in its fight against anti-travel agent tax provisions at the state level when Massachusetts dropped a double tax provision on agents' revenue stream. While Governor Deval Patrick signed the Massachusetts corporate tax bill, it was without a provision that would have taxed travel agents' service fees for online booking of hotel rooms in the state.
ASTA said if the original provision passed it would have meant an unprecedented double tax on travel agencies' income stream. This would have posed a serious threat to hundreds of traditional agencies in Massachusetts, 98 percent of which are small businesses. ASTA has combated tax proposals on agents in a half dozen states.
"Our ongoing success at the state level boils down to the hard work of ASTA's grassroots membership and local leadership such as ASTA's New England Chapter President, Mike Spinelli, Jr. and the invaluable assistance of the Interactive Travel Services Association," said Cheryl Hudak, ASTA president and CEO. "In the case of Massachusetts, members responded to this threat with letters, phone calls, and personal visits to the state house to signal their opposition.
"We heard from multiple sources, each confirming that the grassroots efforts of individual travel agents made all the difference in this fight. And, in the end, the conference committee negotiators removed the offending provision from the final version of the bill. One ASTA member agent even received a personal phone call from his state senator to inform him that the provision had been deleted. I think that's a real testament to what can happen when people are actively engaged in the political process,” Hudak said.
The provision, if passed, would have driven tourism–a key economic engine–away from Massachusetts.