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Boston puts 3d biggest tax bite on tourists, survey finds

Costs haven’t dissuaded visitors, official says

For tourists, Massachusetts is still Taxachusetts.

Boston has the third-highest travel tax burden in the nation, with visitors paying an average of $34.83 a day in sales tax and fees for travel-related services such as meals, car rentals, and hotels, according to the Global Business Travel Association, a trade group in Alexandria, Va.

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Chicago and New York have the highest rates of the 50 US cities surveyed, at $40.31 and $37.98, respectively.

Three cities in Florida — Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, and West Palm Beach — have the lowest, with $22.21 tacked on per day in each city. When sales tax is taken out of the equation, Boston has the second-highest travel tax rate in the country, at $19.17 a day, behind only Portland, Ore., at $22.45 a day, according to the travel association.

What pushes Boston near the top is the $10 flat rate tax on rental cars, which helps pay for the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. If not for this fee, the travel association said, Boston would have the 12th lowest travel taxes instead of the third highest.

Patrick Moscaritolo, president of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Boston’s high tax rate doesn’t have a big impact on business travel, pointing out that the Global Business Travel Association broke attendance records when it held its annual conference here in 2007, and broke it again in Boston earlier this summer.

Hotel occupancy rates are also the highest in years.

But for leisure travelers looking for deals in a down economy, the high tax burden is more worrisome.

“This report is sort of a blinking yellow light,” he said. “If visitor industry taxes continue to rise, it may have an impact on people’s decision whether or not they will come to the Boston area.”

Katie Johnston can be reached at kjohnston@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.
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