Checking In

A Look at Wisconsin Room Tax Trends

May 2019


Our latest research finds that statewide room tax collections have more than doubled since 1999, growing faster than inflation or state and local taxes collectively in Wisconsin. That trend is attributed both to greater numbers of communities levying the tax (or increasing it) and natural growth in hotel and motel stays and charges.

Other key findings:

  • An average of more than seven municipalities per year have added a room tax since 1987. In 1999, 169 municipalities in Wisconsin levied a room tax, according to DOR data. By 2017, the number had risen to 291, or nearly 16% of the state‚Äôs cities, villages, and towns.
  • As statewide room tax collections have grown the legislature has placed greater restrictions on use of the funds and put new reporting rules in place. As part of the study, we examined these new reports and found inconsistencies in how communities complied with state rules governing the tax and the reports.
  • Growth from increased numbers of visitors and increases in lodging charges helped contribute to the growth in room tax collections. For example, data collected for the state Department of Tourism showed a 31.3% increase in overnight visits in Wisconsin between 2009 and 2017.