Chapter 4.24
UNIFORM TRANSIENT OCCUPANCY TAX

Sections:

4.24.010    Title for citation.

4.24.020    Definitions.

4.24.030    Imposition—Amount.

4.24.040    Exemptions—Generally.

4.24.050    Exemptions—Transient occupancy facilities of religious, educational or charitable groups.

4.24.060    Operator’s duties.

4.24.070    Registration certificate required.

4.24.075    Certificate number required on all advertisements.

4.24.080    Reporting and remitting.

4.24.090    Recordkeeping requirements.

4.24.100    Failure to collect and report—County determination.

4.24.110    Appeal from County determination.

4.24.120    Refunds.

4.24.130    Delinquent payments or fraud—Penalties.

4.24.135    Failure to file—Penalties.

4.24.140    Actions to collect.

4.24.150    Violation—Penalty.

4.24.160    Violation—Revocation.

4.24.010 Title for citation.

This chapter shall be known as the “uniform transient occupancy tax ordinance of the County of Santa Cruz.” [Ord. 5290 § 11, 2019; Ord. 1011, 1964; prior code § 7.05.010].

4.24.020 Definitions.

Except where the context otherwise requires, the definitions given in this section govern the construction of this chapter:

(A)    “Transient occupancy facility” means any facility, or any portion of any facility, which is occupied or intended or designed for occupancy by transients for dwelling, lodging or sleeping purposes, and includes any hotel, inn, tourist home or house, motel, studio hotel, lodginghouse, roominghouse, apartment house, dormitory, public or private club, mobile home or house trailer at a fixed location, or other lodging. “Transient occupancy facility” includes, but is not limited to, a camping site or a space at a campground or recreational vehicle park, but does not include:

(1)    Any facilities operated by a local government entity;

(2)    The right of an owner of a room or rooms in a time-share project, or the owner of a membership camping contract, as defined by subdivision (b) of Section 1812.300 of the California Civil Code, in a camping site at a campground or the guest of the owner to occupy the room, rooms, camping site, or other real property in which the owner retains that interest. “Guest of the owner” means a person who occupies real property accompanied by the owner of a room or rooms in a time-share project, or who occupies a camping site in a campground pursuant to a right or license under a membership camping contract, or who exercises that owner’s right of occupancy without payment of any compensation to the owner, or pursuant to any form of exchange program;

(3)    Any campsite in a unit of the State park system.

The burden of establishing that a place of occupancy is not a transient occupancy facility shall be upon the owner or operator thereof, who shall file with the Tax Administrator such information as the Tax Administrator may request, to establish and maintain nontransient occupancy facility status.

(B)    “Occupancy” means the use or possession, or the right to the use or possession, of any room or rooms or portions thereof, or other living space, in any transient occupancy facility for dwelling, lodging or sleeping purposes.

(C)    “Operator” means the person who is proprietor of the transient occupancy facility, whether in the capacity of owner, lessee, sublessee, mortgagee in possession, licensee, or any other capacity. Where the operator performs their functions through a managing agent of any type or character other than an employee, the managing agent shall also be deemed an operator for the purposes of this chapter and shall have the same duties and liabilities as their principal. Compliance with the provisions of this chapter by either the principal or the managing agent shall, however, be considered to be compliance by both.

(D)    “Person” means any individual, firm, partnership, joint venture, association, social club, fraternal organization, joint stock company, corporation, estate, trust, business trust, receiver, trustee, syndicate, or any other group or combination acting as a unit.

(E)    “Rent” means a consideration charged, whether or not received, for the occupancy of space in a transient occupancy facility, valued in money, whether to be received in money, goods, labor or otherwise, including all receipts, cash, credits, and property and services of any kind or nature without any deduction therefrom whatsoever.

(F)    “Tax Administrator” means the County Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector.

(G)    “Transient” means any person who exercises occupancy or is entitled to occupancy by reason of concession, permit, right of access, license or other agreement for a period of 30 consecutive calendar days or less, counting portions of calendar days as full days. Any such person so occupying space in a transient occupancy facility shall be deemed to be a transient until the period of 30 days has expired unless there is an agreement in writing between the operator and the occupant providing for a longer period of occupancy. In determining whether a person is a transient, uninterrupted periods of time extending both prior and subsequent to the effective date of the ordinance codified in this chapter may be considered.

(H)    “Certificate” shall mean the transient occupancy registration certificate as described in SCCC 4.24.070. [Ord. 5290 § 11, 2019; Ord. 5208 §§ 2, 3, 2015; Ord. 4230 § 1, 1992; Ord. 4089 § 1, 1990; Ord. 3715 § 1, 1986; Ord. 3619 § 1, 1985; Ord. 1011, 1964; prior code § 7.05.020].

4.24.030 Imposition—Amount.*

For the privilege of occupancy in any transient occupancy facility, such transient is subject to and shall pay a tax in the amount of 11 percent of the rent charged. Such tax constitutes a debt owed by the transient to the County which is extinguished only by payment to the operator or to the County. The transient shall pay the tax to the operator of the transient occupancy facility at the time the rent is paid. If the rent is paid in installments, a proportionate share of the tax shall be paid with each installment. The unpaid tax shall be due upon the transient’s ceasing to occupy space in the transient occupancy facility. If for any reason the tax due is not paid to the operator of the transient occupancy facility, the Tax Administrator may require that such tax shall be paid directly to the Tax Administrator. [Ord. 5144 § 1, 2013; Ord. 5110 § 1, 2011; Ord. 4230 § 2, 1992; Ord. 3619 § 2, 1985; Ord. 3409 § 1, 1983; Ord. 2598, 1978; Ord. 2570, 1978; Ord. 1914, 1973; Ord. 1325, 1968; Ord. 1011, 1964; prior code § 7.05.030].

*    Code reviser’s note: Section 2 of Ordinance 5144 provides that the tax rate at 11 percent shall not become operative until July 1, 2013.

4.24.040 Exemptions—Generally.

(A)    No tax shall be imposed on:

(1)    Any person as to whom, or any occupancy as to which, it is beyond the power of the County to impose the tax herein provided;

(2)    Any officer or employee of a foreign government who is exempt by reason of express provision of Federal law or international treaty.

(B)    No exemption shall be granted except upon a claim therefor made at the time the rent is collected and under penalty of perjury upon a form prescribed by the Tax Administrator. [Ord. 1325, 1968; Ord. 1011, 1964; prior code § 7.05.040].

4.24.050 Exemptions—Transient occupancy facilities of religious, educational or charitable groups.

The provisions of this chapter shall not apply to occupancy of a transient occupancy facility owned or operated by a religious, educational or charitable group and used for religious, educational or charitable purposes, which is not conducted for profit and no part of the earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual. [Ord. 4230 § 3, 1992; Ord. 1033, 1964; prior code § 7.05.025].

4.24.060 Operator’s duties.

Each operator shall collect the tax imposed by this chapter to the same extent and at the same time as the rent is collected from every transient. The amount of tax shall be separately stated from the amount of the rent charged, and each transient shall receive a receipt for payment from the operator. No operator of a transient occupancy facility shall advertise or state in any manner, whether directly or indirectly, that the tax or any part thereof will be assumed or absorbed by the operator, or that it will not be added to the rent, or that, if added, any part will be refunded except in the manner hereinafter provided. [Ord. 4230 § 4, 1992; Ord. 3715 § 2, 1986; Ord. 3619 § 3, 1985; Ord. 1011, 1964; prior code § 7.05.050].

4.24.070 Registration certificate required.

Within 30 days after the effective date of the ordinance codified in this chapter, or within 30 days after commencing business, whichever is later, each operator of any transient occupancy facility renting occupancy to transients shall register said transient occupancy facility with the Tax Administrator and obtain from the Tax Administrator a “transient occupancy registration certificate” to be at all times posted in a conspicuous place on the premises. Such certificate shall, among other things, state the following:

(A)    The name of the operator;

(B)    The address of the transient occupancy facility;

(C)    The date upon which the certificate was issued;

(D)    The certificate number; and

(E)    The following statement:

This Transient Occupancy Registration Certificate signifies that the person named on the face hereof has fulfilled the requirements of the Uniform Transient Occupancy Tax Ordinance by registering with the Tax Administrator for the purpose of collecting from transients the Transient Occupancy Tax and remitting said tax to the Tax Administrator. This Certificate does not authorize any person to conduct any unlawful business or conduct any lawful business in an unlawful manner, nor to operate a transient occupancy facility without strictly complying with all local applicable laws, including but not limited to those requiring a permit from any board, commission, department or office of this County. This Certificate does not constitute a permit.

[Ord. 5290 § 11, 2019; Ord. 5208 § 4, 2015; Ord. 4230 § 5, 1992; Ord. 1011, 1964; prior code § 7.05.060].

4.24.075 Certificate number required on all advertisements.

The operator must include the certificate number in all forms of advertisement. [Ord. 5208 § 5, 2015].

4.24.080 Reporting and remitting.

(A)    Each operator shall, on or before the last day of the month following the close of each calendar month, make a return to the Tax Administrator, on forms provided by the Tax Administrator, of the total rents charged and received and the amount of tax collected for transient occupancies. In addition, operators of recreational housing units that are exempt from the residential permit allocation system set forth in SCCC 12.02.020 shall include with the return a statement, in the form prescribed by the Tax Administrator, for each recreational housing unit showing for the report period the following:

(1)    The total number of days of transient rentals;

(2)    The dates of each separate transient occupancy;

(3)    The number of days of occupancy by the owner(s);

(4)    The dates of each period of occupancy by the owners;

(5)    The number of days the unit was vacant; and

(6)    The dates of each period the unit was vacant.

(B)    At the same time the return is filed, the full amount of the tax collected shall be remitted to the Tax Administrator. The Tax Administrator may require further information in the return. Returns and payments are due immediately upon cessation of business for any reason. All taxes collected by operators pursuant to this chapter shall be held in trust for the account of the County until payment thereof is made to the Tax Administrator. [Ord. 5290 § 11, 2019; Ord. 4334 § 1, 1994; Ord. 3992 § 1, 1989; Ord. 3715 § 3, 1986; Ord. 3619 § 4, 1985; Ord. 2825, 1979; Ord. 1011, 1964; prior code § 7.05.070].

4.24.090 Recordkeeping requirements.

It shall be the duty of every operator liable for the collection and payment to the County of any tax imposed by this chapter to keep and preserve, for a period of three years, all records as may be necessary to determine the amount of such tax as they may have been liable to collect and pay to the County. The Tax Administrator shall have the right to inspect the records at all reasonable times. [Ord. 5290 § 11, 2019; Ord. 1011, 1964; prior code § 7.05.110].

4.24.100 Failure to collect and report—County determination.

If any operator fails or refuses to collect said tax and to make, within the time provided in this chapter, any report and remittance of the tax or any portion thereof required by this chapter, the Tax Administrator shall proceed in such manner as they may deem best to obtain facts and information on which to base their estimate of the tax due. As soon as the Tax Administrator shall procure such facts and information as they are able to obtain upon which to base the assessment of any tax imposed by this chapter and payable by any operator who has failed or refused to collect the same and to make such report and remittance, the Tax Administrator shall proceed to determine and assess against such operator the tax, interest and penalties provided for by this chapter. In case such determination is made, the Tax Administrator shall give a notice of the amount so assessed by serving it personally or by depositing it in the United States mail, postage prepaid, addressed to the operator so assessed at their last known place of address. Such operator may within 10 days after the serving or mailing of such notice make application in writing to the Tax Administrator for a hearing on the amount assessed. If application by the operator for a hearing is not made within the time prescribed, the tax, interest and penalties, if any, determined by the Tax Administrator shall become final and conclusive, and immediately due and payable. If such application is made, the Tax Administrator shall give not less than five days’ written notice in the manner prescribed herein to the operator to show cause at a time and place fixed in the notice why the amount specified therein should not be fixed for such tax, interest and penalties. At such hearing, the operator may appear and offer evidence why such specified tax, interest and penalties should not be so fixed. After such hearing, the Tax Administrator shall determine the proper tax to be remitted and shall thereafter give written notice to the person in the manner prescribed herein of such determination and the amount of such tax, interest and penalties. The amount determined to be due shall be payable after 15 days unless an appeal is taken as provided in SCCC 4.24.110. [Ord. 5290 § 11, 2019; Ord. 1011, 1964; prior code § 7.05.090].

4.24.110 Appeal from County determination.

Any operator aggrieved by any decision of the Tax Administrator with respect to the amount of such tax, interest and penalties, if any, may appeal to the Board of Supervisors by filing a notice of appeal with the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors within 15 days of the serving or mailing of the determination of tax due. The Board of Supervisors shall fix a time and place for hearing such appeal, and the Clerk of the Board shall give notice in writing to such operator at their last known place of address. The findings of the Board of Supervisors shall be final and conclusive and shall be served upon the applicant in the manner prescribed above for service of notice of hearing. Any amount found to be due shall be immediately due and payable upon the service of notice. [Ord. 5290 § 11, 2019; Ord. 1011, 1964; prior code § 7.05.100].

4.24.120 Refunds.

(A)    Whenever the amount of any tax, interest or penalty has been overpaid or paid more than once, or has been erroneously or illegally collected or received by the County under this chapter, it may be refunded as provided in subsections (B) and (C) of this section provided a claim in writing therefor, stating under penalty of perjury the specific grounds upon which the claim is founded, is filed with the Tax Administrator within three years of the date of payment. The claim shall be on forms furnished by the Tax Administrator.

(B)    An operator may claim a refund or take as credit against taxes collected and remitted the amount overpaid, paid more than once or erroneously or illegally collected or received when it is established in a manner prescribed by the Tax Administrator that the person from whom the tax has been collected was not a transient; provided, however, that neither a refund nor a credit shall be allowed unless the amount of the tax so collected has either been refunded to the person or credited to rent subsequently payable by the person to the operator.

(C)    A transient may obtain a refund of taxes overpaid or paid more than once or erroneously or illegally collected or received by the County by filing a claim in the manner provided in subsection (A) of this section, but only when the tax was paid by the transient directly to the Tax Administrator, or when the transient, having paid the tax to the operator, establishes to the satisfaction of the Tax Administrator that the transient has been unable to obtain a refund from the operator who collected the tax.

(D)    No refund shall be paid under the provisions of this section unless the claimant establishes their right thereto by written records showing entitlement thereto. [Ord. 5290 § 11, 2019; Ord. 1011, 1974; prior code § 7.05.120].

4.24.130 Delinquent payments or fraud—Penalties.

(A)    Original Delinquency. Any operator who fails to remit any tax imposed by this chapter within the time required shall pay a penalty of 10 percent of the amount of the tax in addition to the amount of the tax.

(B)    Continued Delinquency. Any operator who fails to remit any delinquent remittance on or before a period of 30 days following the date on which the remittance first became delinquent shall pay a second delinquency penalty of 15 percent of the amount of the tax in addition to the amount of the tax and the 10 percent penalty first imposed.

(C)    Fraud. If the Tax Administrator determines that the nonpayment of any remittance due under this chapter is due to fraud, a penalty of 40 percent of the amount of the tax shall be added thereto in addition to the penalties stated in subsections (A) and (B) of this section.

(D)    Interest. In addition to the penalties imposed, any operator who fails to remit any tax imposed by this chapter shall pay interest at the rate of one and one-half percent per month or fraction thereof on the amount of the tax, exclusive of penalty, from the date on which the remittance first became delinquent until paid.

(E)    Penalties, Interest and Costs Merged with Tax. Every penalty imposed, all interest due, and all costs incurred under the provisions of this section shall become a part of the tax herein required to be paid.

(F)    Partial Payments of Delinquencies. Partial payments for delinquent taxes received after the imposition of penalties and interest by the Tax Administrator pursuant to subsections (A), (B), (C) and (D) of this section shall be applied first to all penalties and interest, with the balance applied to taxes due in the order in which they became delinquent. The difference between the amount paid and amount due shall be treated as a delinquent tax in the same manner as any other delinquent transient occupancy tax subject to the provisions of this section. [Ord. 4153 § 1, 1991; Ord. 4089 § 2, 1990; Ord. 3143, 1981; Ord. 1011, 1964; prior code § 7.05.080].

4.24.135 Failure to file—Penalties.

Any operator who holds a certificate but does not rent the transient occupancy facility during any month is still required under SCCC 4.24.080 to file a return on or before the last day of the month following the close of each calendar month. Any operator who fails to file the return as required shall pay a nonfiling penalty of $25.00. The penalty shall be waived for the first offense in a 12-month period but shall apply to each subsequent offense. [Ord. 5290 § 11, 2019; Ord. 5208 § 6, 2015].

4.24.140 Actions to collect.

Any tax required to be paid by any transient under the provisions of this chapter but not collected by an operator shall be deemed a debt owed by the operator to the County. Any tax collected by an operator which has not been paid to the County shall also be deemed a debt owed by the operator to the County. Any person owing money to the County under the provisions of this chapter shall be subject to an action brought in the name of the County of Santa Cruz for the recovery of such amount. [Ord. 5208 § 7, 2015; Ord. 1011, 1964; prior code § 7.05.130].

4.24.150 Violation—Penalty.

(A)    A violation of any provision of this chapter shall be a misdemeanor and punishable as provided in this code.

(B)    Any operator or other person who fails or refuses to register as required herein, or to furnish any return required to be made, or who fails or refuses to furnish a supplemental return or other data required by the Tax Administrator, or who renders a false or fraudulent return or claim, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Any person required to make, render, sign or verify any report or claim who makes any false or fraudulent report or claim with intent to defeat or evade the determination of any amount due required by this chapter to be made, is guilty of a misdemeanor and punishable as provided in this code. [Ord. 3620 § 2, 1985; Ord. 1011, 1964; prior code § 7.05.140].

4.24.160 Violation—Revocation.

The Tax Administrator has the authority to revoke the certificate from any operator or other person who is in violation of the provisions of this chapter. To revoke the certificate, the Tax Administrator shall serve the operator with a notice of revocation of the certificate, with a copy to the Director of the Planning Department and the Sheriff. [Ord. 5290 § 11, 2019; Ord. 5208 § 8, 2015].