New Hampshire Campground Tax Takes Effect
For five months of the year, Marj Rawls and Janice Pollack make New Hampshire their home.
After selling their house in Harpersville, Ala., 12 years ago and using the money to buy an RV, the two have been traveling all across country – and stopping at a little campground in Brookline, N.H., each summer to enjoy the Granite State.
But after making New Hampshire their home for so many summers, they may start rethinking their travel plans due to the state's newly revised rooms and meals tax, according to the Nashua Telegraph.
"We love this area and we love coming here," Rawls said. "But now we might have to think about coming back."
Rawls and Pollack are among the many campers and site owners that are confused and concerned with the new 9% tax levied on stays at campgrounds. Campsite rental fees had previously been exempt from the rooms and meals tax.
"I just got a letter telling me to start collecting the taxes and how to do it," said Daniel MacLean, owner of Field & Stream RV Park in Brookline. "You would have thought that they would have a meeting with people in the camping business to talk about it."
Other owners said they received no such notice from the state.
"We haven't got in any contact with anyone," said Barry Charest, owner of Friendly Beaver Campground in New Boston. "It seems very unorganized on the state of New Hampshire and they should have given us some time to adjust."
The change in the tax came about when Gov. John Lynch signed the state's two-year budget Tuesday (June 30). It took effect at the start of the state's next fiscal year, which just happened to be the very next day, July 1.
Taxing camping sites, much like the tax a person pays for staying in a hotel room, would bring more money into already lean state coffers, state budget writers hoped. The move may prove shortsighted, camping officials said.
"It seems that the state thinks that there is a pot of gold waiting to be scooped up here," MacLean said. "But they are just going to lose the people who come here."
Seasonals to Feel Bite the Most
Many campgrounds fear the 9% tax will prevent seasonal campers like Rawls and Pollack, who stay for months at a time instead of just for a few nights, from making the annual trip to New Hampshire. Because their stay is longer, the tax can be hefty.
For example, someone staying at a seasonal site at MacLean's Field and Stream RV Park is now facing another $223 charge on top of the $2,475 they are already paying to stay from May to October.
For campers staying for a weekend, the increase isn't huge – about $10 for a three-day stay – but it can add up over the course of a summer.
"We are trying to reduce the effect on the seasonal camper," said Gregg Pitman, executive director of the New Hampshire Campground Owners Association. "The campgrounds that have the most seasonal camps are most concerned. These seasonal campers are the ones that give the owners the money to get through the winter."
There are more than 130 campgrounds in the state, according to the association.
Because camping is a relatively inexpensive way for a family to take a vacation, the demographics of campers are generally young families or retirees on a fixed income, according to MacLean. This tax will cut into the money those families have to spend on food and clothes, he said.
Charest, of Friendly Beaver Campground, agrees.
"It's going to have an effect on the people that can't afford a trip to Disney but want to get out and do a family vacation," Charest said. "If the campers have to pay the tax, they are not going to go to the store and spend a little money on things."
In turn, the decreased spending could affect the surrounding economy, some warned.
"I think what is going to happen is that the tax is going to cut into something else they do," said Jayne Cohen, president of Adventure Bound Camping Resorts, which runs the Yogi Bear's Yellowstone Park in the Lakes Region. "They may stay one less night, or not go out to their favorite restaurant or go out to ice cream. In the short term, the state is going to raise the money they need, but in the long run they are going to lose it somewhere else."