UPDATE: Travelocity says it "will keep telling Montana's great tourism story at every opportunity" despite the state Department of Revenue's "increasing unfair and untrue attacks..."
"Our sponsorship and promotional work in Montana are about promoting tourism and are in line with what we do in cities and states all over the country," Travelocity says.
Travelocity, too, points out that it has picked up some support on the tax issue from the Montana Chamber of Commerce, with an official saying the state's efforts would hurt the travel industry.
And, the president of the Montana Taxpayers Association labeled "angry and unprofessional" an opinion piece by the tax department's director of revenue.
The head of the taxpayers association, Mary Whittinghill argues that the case against the OTAs should be closed because they don't operate hotels.
The original post follows:
State tax officials can be conservative guys, especially in their public statements, but the top tax executive in Montana breaks the mold.
Dan Bucks, director of the Montana Department of Revenue, last month wrote a guest opinion piece in the Billings Gazette about the online travel agency hotel- tax issue, blasting "out-of-state tax cheats."
Pointing to efforts by the OTAs and their trade association, the Interactive Travel Services Association, to get federal legislation absolving them from certain state or city hotel taxes, Bucks wrote: "You might be able to buy Congress, but in Montana we don't abide out-of-state tax cheats. Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia, Priceline have to pay their taxes like everyone else."
Apparently Bucks reserves special ire for alleged transgressors when they are "out-of-state."
Meanwhile, Travelocity, which made a big show out of donating $10,000 in September toward the launch of a Montana Folk Festival and reportedly plans to sponsor several other civic events around the state, came in for some sharp jabs from Bucks.
"Amusingly, Travelocity says it should be let off the hook because it 'promotes Montana' on its website, and because it gave a $10,000 donation to the Butte Folk Festival and another to the Magic City Blues Festival (they did these things, mind you, when they got wind of our intent to ask them to pay their unpaid taxes)," Bucks wrote. "Sorry, but these small gestures, while appreciated, cannot be a way to wiggle out of a multi-million dollar tax bill."
The courts will have to determine whether Travelocity and other OTAs owe the state "multi-million dollar tax bills," smaller amounts or nothing.
In early November, a couple of months after the Travelocity donation to the Montana folk festival, the State of Montana sued major OTAs on the hotel tax issue, Bucks wrote.
Travelocity didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about Bucks' statements and whether the lawsuit changed its approach to sponsorships in Montana.