Another $72 in taxes for my hotel? But I thought we already paid!


When it comes to price transparency, airlines get almost all the attention — and rightfully so. But Joseph Jacobazzi wants us to devote a little bandwidth to hotels today. Bonus: His case doesn’t involve mandatory resort fees.

Jacobazzi reserved a room through a site called Booked.net, a Cyprus-based online travel agency, at the Hôtel Jardin Ste-Anne in Quebec City. “The confirmation from Booked.net clearly says the price included all taxes,” he says. He showed us the screenshots.

But when he arrived, the hotel charged him an extra $72.

What’s going on?

“We e-mailed Booked.net and were told, federal, provincial and lodging taxes are all local taxes,” he says. “They say, ‘We did indicate a total price including taxes, but only general taxes.'”

General? Local? Who cares? Taxes are taxes.

“I want to recover the taxes we paid,” said Jacobazzi.

That makes two of us. An honest rate would include all mandatory taxes and fees, but as we’ve already seen, that doesn’t always happen. (Cough, cough, resort fees!)

Why would a hotel or online agency not include these taxes or fees? Easy. It makes the rate look cheaper than it really is. In Jacobazzi’s case, a whole $72 cheaper.

Our advocacy team asked Booked.net to clarify. Here’s what it had to say:

All information on our website (rates, description and pictures) is provided by the hotel.

We provided all the information we had regarding the available room to the customer. The reservation made by Mr. Jacobazzi included taxes but usually the city tax should be paid at the hotel directly. This is a general procedure for all hotels.


Our company didn’t charge the credit card of the client. Client paid everything to the hotel.
Our company acts as OTA but didn’t charge the guest.

Have a nice day!

In other words, don’t shoot the messenger.

Let’s try this scenario on for size. Say I’m the revenue manager at the Hôtel Jardin Ste-Anne, and I want to attract more people to my property. What if I advertised a $1 room rate and a mandatory $495 “service” fee? Would Booked.net still be able to get away with the “Our company acts as OTA” excuse?

I don’t think so, either.

Also, does anyone care who charged the credit card? No, that makes no difference. Payment is payment.

So what to do here?

First, we issue a warning to anyone booking through Booked.net. “All” taxes doesn’t necessarily mean all taxes. You may have to pay more.

Second, just because someone says they’re transparent doesn’t mean they really are. And their definition of transparent may be very different from yours. You can’t go wrong by asking lots of questions, including phoning the hotel before making your booking.

Finally, as I often say at the end of these stories, there ought to be a law. That’s especially true for a law-abiding nation like Canada. I can imagine this kind of nonsense happening in the United States, with its rabid free-marketers who sometimes believe that lying is an acceptable means to higher profits.

But Canada? Come on.

We shouldn’t need a rule to force a business to tell the truth. But we may need one to punish it when it lies.


Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • Ben

    I’m pinning this one on the booking site, it’s their responsibility to ensure that the information provided by the hotel (or any other source, really) is accurate. If the hotel provided incorrect information, the booking site needs to take that up with the hotel, not pass along the cost to the consumer.

  • Rebecca

    “The reservation made by Mr. Jacobazzi included taxes but usually the city tax should be paid at the hotel directly. This is a general procedure for all hotels.”

    No, it’s not. What a load of bull.

  • Rebecca

    You’re absolutely spot on here. With a screen shot, he should be able to file a credit card dispute. He may be initially denied, based on my experience. But with the screenshots he should have a slam dunk appeal here.

  • LFH0

    I am curious to know the proper taxes were for the hotel room utilized.
    Were the taxes collected proper, even if the procedure for notification
    and collection thereof was discombobulated. Or were the same taxes
    billed and collected twice? What is confusing here is that the
    explanation that “local taxes” means “federal, provincial and lodging
    taxes,” leaves me wondering what taxes are not “local.”

  • Bill___A

    “That’s especially true for a law-abiding nation like Canada” It looks like he booked with a Cyprus based website, not a Canadian one. A Canadian website would know how the taxes work in Canada and would know that the taxes generally are not embedded within the prices (as should you). The issue is with Cyprus, not Canada.

  • MarkKelling

    Depends on the part of the world you are in. Last year in Italy, every hotel I stayed in charged around €1.50 per night as a local tax. This was payable when you checked out and had to be in cash. But there is a big difference in $2 and $71. I think the booking web site just messed this one up here.

  • Rebecca

    Yes, I agree. It definitely isn’t customary anywhere to have $72 in taxes added on when you arrive after a prepaid reservation. Agreed about a small, local tax; your example is perfect. This large amount simply isn’t customary.

  • C Schwartz

    Canada has gst which is a federal sales tax, the same rate through the country. PST is provincial sales tax, which is local to the province and varies. Then some provinces/cities/resorts have have an additional tax on lodging. So there can be several taxes to pay. It is really confusing and it does add up. I wonder if the Cyrus based website is used to European cities where the taxes are included in the prices, vs the US system where taxes are added afterwards. It does not appear they were collected twice because the online booking system did not collect any payment

  • C Schwartz

    Yes Canada is more like the US where the taxes are added afterwards. The Europeans tend to quote prices with the taxes added.

  • C Schwartz

    The Cyprus based booking engine is not able to collect and remit sales tax in Canada. And Canadian taxes are high — Federal tax is about 5%, Province tax is close to 10% and then a city lodging tax of 3% — so an 18% tax. A $400 hotel room round have taxes of $72 dollars. Canadian business quote prices exclusive of taxes as in the US; Europeans are inclusive except for local/city hotel taxes. I notices that a lot of Canadian hotels quote rates without sales tax. This sounds like the online booking system has the tax section badly written. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9f376171fe32a3f2df4ce2827261dd50a51d1bec1bf9184a74dffe111c0b1942.png Here is how a direct booking with a hotel shows the taxes — this is in Vancouver BC. The original price quoted was Canadian $375

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    This is one reason to book directly with the hotel’s website instead of using a Cyprus website to book a Canadian hotel room.

    As a side note, I have NOT read articles on this site about the amount of taxes on hotel rooms and car rental. In this case, there is a 18% tax for a room which adds $ 18 for every $ 100. There are some airports where the fees and taxes for a car rental is 50% to 60% of the car rental rate.

  • Rebecca

    I am from Chicago, so I’m not a stranger to high taxes. If the OP has a screenshot stating all taxes are included, it should be included. But even if a local tax wasn’t included, that would still be a nominal amount. The 18% includes several different taxes. If all but one was collected, it shouldn’t jump that significantly when he’s prepaid for the hotel.

  • C Schwartz

    As no screenshot was shown in the article I am not sure what it said. I tried to do a test booking on the site, it said all taxes included but underneath there was a disclaimer that local taxes need to be paid. I do not know if that disclaimer was added after the traveler had a problem. The website is poorly designed. This is the problem with 3rd party vendors.

  • AAGK

    All these websites say there will be additional taxes at the hotel. When I see that I assume the taxes are nominal. $72 is not nominal and he should’ve contacted the property. I agree this website sounds terrible. In this case, I’m less sympathetic bc he agreed to these taxes in person at the hotel. That was his chance to opt out. While that would be inconvenient, he chose to pay the extra for his own convenience and unfortunately, that’s not free.

  • Rebecca

    Interesting. At least it is on the site now. One thing I’ve learned here is simply don’t use an OTA, just isn’t worth the trouble.

  • Lindabator

    Actually, the LOCAL taxes on a $139 rate brings the total up past $164 in our system, which DOES show the local taxes, so depending on his cost, and length of stay – $72 might be on the money

  • Lindabator

    Actually, that is correct – Canada does have high taxes, and their local taxes can make you take a real hit

  • cscasi

    I recently stayed in two hotels; one in Zurich and one in Milan. Both my reservations showed the price of the room and taxes, but also showed a 5 Swiss Francs a night room tax additional and in Milan it was the same, except the charge was 5 Euros a night. These were above and beyond the normal taxes. I was told that they are a city imposed tax. I guess the cities in Europe want their cut.

  • PsyGuy

    Agree, if he has a screen shot file a dispute with the CC issuer.

  • PsyGuy

    The OTA’s claim lacks credibility, an OTA is still a TA, they took payment and made a profit and they misrepresented their service.

  • The Original Joe S

    Cyprus-based online travel agency

    Obviously a reputable company…….

  • Daddydo

    Who was the actual travel agent? Joseph Jacobazzi! He used Booked.net as his resource. I know all of the rules and regulations for each and every hotel around the world. (At least I know how to research the taxes). I agree with booked.net, that they provided all of the information that they were given. That’s why real LIVE agents have more than one booking source and know the ones that are legit or low ballers.My computer says “federal, provincial and lodging taxes are all local taxes” are not included. No money for you today.

  • C Schwartz

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/66b59e09d1b6b99fa5ac8129a35c179dc77d1e051a208560650dd09a769811f6.png

    Here is a screen shot of how confusing it is. I have used some OTAs in the past but prefer to book directly with a hotel. That way there is a more direct relationship to the hotel and not having to communicate and deal with a third party.

  • C Schwartz

    I have had the same in Paris, a city tax added on top and not payable at the time of the reservation but at the time of the stay. Not that I can say the city I live is any better to tourists. The sales tax where I live is 8.875% Look what the city charges for hotels

    Total tax on a NYC hotel room: 14.75% + $3.50/room/night
    • NYC sales tax: 4.5%
    • NY State sales tax: 4%
    • MCTD state sales & use tax: 0.375%
    • NYC Hotel Occupancy Tax: 5.875%
    • NYC Hotel Room Occupancy Tax of $2.00/room /night applies to all rooms charging $40/night or more.
    • NYS Javits expansion fund charge of $1.50/room/night applies to all rooms, effective 4/1/05.

  • C Schwartz

    An OTA is an online booking engine where the traveler is the travel agent. They have a disclaimer which shows they take no responsibility, which is why I prefer to book directly with the vendor. whether it be an airline or hotel. Their disclaimer:

    Booked.net has been compiled with the greatest possible care. Our services are based on the information provided by the hotels; for this reason the hotels remain responsible for the correctness of this information. Hotels can alter the information about their hotel, such as prices and availability, at any moment. We can therefore not guarantee that all the information is accurate.

  • Bill___A

    City Tax: $3.00
    State Tax: $2.57
    Room Tax: $16.77
    Occupancy Tax: $5.46
    Local tax: $1.95
    TPA Fee (tax): $2.00

    This is for a one night hotel room near Sea-Tac Airport.

    Dare I ask what the “local” tax is when there is already a state tax and a city tax and an occupancy tax and a tpa fee?

    Canada has a 5% VAT. UK has 20%
    Canada does have various other taxes on hotel rooms.

    Everyone taxes hotel rooms, the USA is no exception. Travelers get fleeced.

  • PsyGuy

    Their disclaimer means as much as a driver with a bumper sticker that claims “not responsible for collisions”

  • C Schwartz

    It would be really hard to hold someone accountable. The OTA, the 3rd party, is in Cyprus, the traveler is in North America. Is someone really going to sue and serve the company in Cyprus? The driver analogy is a bit off, as the driver is physically present when there is a problem and can be held responsible for their actions.

    It is totally different with an overseas third party vendor and that is why I think it can be problematic.

  • PsyGuy

    I suppose that would depend where the driver was and if they could flee the scene. If they are drinking its the middle of the night in a secluded stretch of road and have a truck and they hit you’re Yaris, what’s to stop them driving away and leaving you out there.

  • AAGK

    Also, I assume local taxes would be the same rate percentage for any property in that area so it’s not like if picked another hotel, he would’ve avoided the charge anyway.

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