Sunday, May 4, 2014

Niagara Falls’ Dirty Little Secret

   Just finished a little holiday celebrating a special anniversary in Niagara Falls. Hotel room overlooking the falls, pleasant dinners out, some sightseeing and a trip to the casino. Totally enjoyable, except for the muggings.
Panorama: American falls left, Canadian falls right
   The first mugging was at the breakfast restaurant when I noticed a charge listed as TIF. It was three per cent of the bill. I inquired and was told it is a tax for “tourism improvement.” I assumed this was just another tax mugging. After all, Canada is a world-class innovator of devious ways to pick its citizens’ pockets.
   The TIF kept appearing to beat me up. It was there when I paid the hotel bill; almost $13. And an hour later when a waitress brought me a bill for breakfast. I became more and more perplexed, so I pulled out the smartphone and consulted Dr. Google. He informed me that TIF, which sometimes goes by other names, is not a government tax. It is an extra charge dreamed up by Niagara hotels and restaurants. The Ontario government has raised concerns about the charge but has never done anything about it. It is three per cent of your bill for food and lodging and is said to raise $15 million a year for the businesses.
   Most interesting: It is VOLUNTARY, although no hotel or restaurant employee will tell you that. There is no legal requirement to pay TIF or whatever other name is being used. If you are in Niagara and see it on your bill, ask them to remove it.
   Niagara hotels and restaurants are scooping enough money without nicking clients another three per cent just because they want to. The place is outrageously expensive because it is a tourist destination (almost $4 for a cup of coffee with your breakfast). People pay inflated prices because Niagara Falls is a scenic, historic and fun place to visit but we deserve better than being mugged for extra cash masquerading as a tax.

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