WASHINGTON -- The District of Columbia can collect sales taxes on the rates hotel guests pay for rooms they book through online travel companies, a judge has ruled.
The city has been collecting taxes on the wholesale rates that the companies pay to hotels. It claimed in a lawsuit that companies including Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity and Priceline owe between $4 million and $10 million in unpaid taxes and interest dating back to 1998.
Dozens of similar lawsuits have been filed across the country, and cities have met with mixed success in cases already decided by courts.
On Monday, Superior Court Judge Craig Iscoe granted summary judgment to the district on portions of its lawsuit, while other portions are yet to be decided. The city can't immediately start collecting taxes because the case is not over. The city is still seeking damages from the firms, which also could appeal the summary judgment rulings.
"The Court's ruling today is an important step in our efforts to ensure that the district receives the substantial sums it is owed by online companies selling hotel rooms in D.C.," Attorney General Nathan said in a statement.
Joseph Rubin, president of the Interactive Travel Services Association, a trade group that represents the online companies, said he was confident the companies would win on appeal if they decided to do so.
"We were disappointed by the decision, but this decision is clearly an outlier," Rubin said. According to cases tracked by the trade group, the industry has prevailed in 22 of 29 similar lawsuits, and several state legislatures have decided against imposing the taxes.
The industry contends that the difference between the wholesale rate the companies pay and the rate charged to consumers is a service charge that should not be taxed.
Also on HuffPost:
Revel, Atlantic City
This new resort and casino has an impressive 1,898 rooms and 14 restaurants from top East Coast chefs like DC's Michel Richard, Philadelphia's Jose Garces and NYC's Marc Forgione. There are approximately 1,000 staffers employed at the hotel's restaurants, shops and spa. Plus: <a href="http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/best-cheap-cities-to-visit" target="_hplink">America's Cheapest Cities to Visit</a> <em>Photo courtesy of Revel.</em>
Hotel Indigo, Atlanta
Guests use their room keys to buy drinks from the midtown hotel's self-service Enomatic wine bar with selections like Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling from Washington state's Columbia Valley. Plus: <a href="http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/americas-best-bars" target="_hplink">America's Best Bars</a> <em>Photo courtesy of Hotel Indigo.</em>
St. Regis, Bal Harbour, Florida
A mojito cart circulates around the pool area at this new hotel, serving minty drinks. Plus: <a href="http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/best-outdoor-dining" target="_hplink">America's Best Outdoor Dining</a> <em>Photo courtesy of St. Regis Hotels.</em>
Four Seasons, Hotel, Baltimore
The year-round heated infinity pool has great views of the city's harborfront and the hotel has two restaurants by chef Michael Mina: Wit & Wisdom, an upscale tavern that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and Pabu, a Japanese izakaya-style pub specializing in robata grilled foods. Mina also consults for the hotel's café, an outpost of L.A.'s Lamill Coffee, which fries beignets to order. Plus: <a href="http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/best-steak-in-the-us" target="_hplink">Best Steak in the U.S.</a> <em>Photo of Wit & Wisdom courtesy of the Four Seasons.</em>
Celeb hotelier Ian Schrager tones down his usual over-the-top style at his first Midwestern hotel. At night, the Pump Room restaurant becomes a 1930s-style supper club with small plates from superchef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The lobby minibar sells local snacks like Garrett Popcorn and Cora Lee Candies. Plus: <a href="http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/best-burgers-in-the-us" target="_hplink">America's Best Burgers in the U.S.</a> <em>Photo courtesy of The Public Chicago.</em>
Hotel Modern, New Orleans
The lounge at this new hotel features cocktails created by star mixologists from NOLA's renowned bar Cure, like the Cobbler, a fortified wine-based drink poured over crushed ice. The bar's name, Bellocq, refers to the photographer whose shots of scantily clad ladies inspired the ceiling mural. Plus: <a href="http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/best-grilled-cheese-in-the-us" target="_hplink">Best Grilled Cheese in the U.S.</a> <em>Photo courtesy of Hotel Modern.</em>
Andaz Wall Street, New York
The new Scotch Trolley at the hotel's restaurant offers 20 choices of the spirit. The Andaz also hosts a farmers' market on its plaza where local purveyors like Migliorelli Farm and Down Home Acres (a community-supported farm) sell seasonal produce every Saturday and Wednesday from June through November. <a href="http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/hotels-for-food-lovers/10" target="_hplink"><strong>Click Here for More of the Best Hotels for Food Lovers</strong></a> <em>Photo courtesy of Andaz Wall Street.</em>