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Monday, January 5, 2015 - 5:00am

Tybee Island Cracksdown on Landlords Dodging Taxes

Tybee Island has a small year-round community, but during summer months its population can increase tenfold.

And tourist traffic is growing.

This year, the island’s city government took in 150 thousand dollars more in Hotel/Motel taxes than in 2013. However, officials say not all property owners are paying their share, which effects upkeep of the island.

The beach is maintained with tax dollars, some of which are paid by landlords who own vacation rentals.

Cody Gay is with Tybee Beach Vacation Rentals.

“We're at Desoto Beach club one of our luxury condominium units," Gay says. "It is oceanview with a very large spacious balcony as you can see it opens up to a huge great room kitchen with granite countertops."

He gave a tour of the property that he helps maintain with his father Keith Gay. Keith said they’re paying the hotel/motel tax, but some of their competitors aren’t.

That can make a big difference in the price of a week’s stay. Rental property owners are charged about 6 percent in hotel/motel tax and about 7 in sales tax per unit.

For a week’s stay at Desoto Beach Club, a guest could pay about 400 dollars on top of their base price to cover those taxes.

"If you’re not charging that 13 percent sales tax your 13 percent cheaper than anybody else in the market," Keith Gay explained.

Mayor Jason Buelterman said the issue is not just about fairness.

“Contributions help offset the costs of lifeguards, re-nourishing the beach, dune crossover, cleaning the beach," according to Buelterman, more people on the island means more maintenance.

"Maintaining the beach, having officers at the beach to deal with large crowds and things of that nature.”

The City of Tybee is auditing rental properties in an effort to crackdown on landlords who aren’t paying taxes.

Buelterman says audits will be ongoing to make sure the city is receiving all the revenue it’s owed.