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Vt. businesses push for room and meals tax amnesty

(WCAX)
Published: Mar. 22, 2020 at 6:15 PM EDT
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Dozens of restaurants across our region have closed their doors and laid off employees. With a reduced cash flow, a new movement within the industry is looking to the state to hold off on collecting rooms and meals taxes.

You pay the nine percent tax every time you go out to eat. Restaurants then give that money to the state each month. They're set to pay the tax this week, but with many businesses shutting their doors or offering take out only, most are already low on funds.

"On March 25th, this Wednesday, all of our restaurants need to send a check to the State government and they don't have the money," said Betsy Bishop with the Vermont Chamber of Commerce.

"Our rent doesn't go away, our property taxes don't go away, our business insurance doesn't go away, and these are expenses that're going to continue going," said Keith Paxman co-owner of the Cornerstone Pub & Kitchen in Barre.

He believes paying the tax this month will further sink many local restaurants. He made a Facebook video using the hash tag -- #Don't86Us -- to make the community aware of their concerns. It's now become a movement among local restaurants asking for an abatement on their room and meals tax.

"The term '86' in the restaurant industry means to get rid of, and I mean this is going to rid of some of us," Paxman said.

The Vermont Chamber of Commerce represents over 300 restaurants and has written a letter to Governor Scott asking the state not to collect the tax from February or March. Bishop says it could save multiple businesses and jobs. "By not forcing them to make that payment this Wednesday, it will help them be able to hire individuals back that they had to let go during this time," she said.

We are in an industry that is facing many uncertainties right now. I'm asking my local reps Rep. Maxine Grad, Kari Dolan, Tommy Walz, and Peter Anthony to petition Vermont Department of Taxes and Governor Phil Scott to allow restaurants to keep our February and March Meals & Rooms tax. This isn't going to save all of us, but it's help that can come immediately. #dont86us #wewontbe86d

Posted by Keith Paxman on Wednesday, March 18, 2020

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