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Travelocity, Broward Settle In Tourist Tax Lawsuit

FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) - They've been fighting for years and haven't solved anything in a dispute over tourist development taxes, but online travel company Travelocity has been dropped from a lawsuit by Broward County without admitting it owes taxes, after paying Broward County $400 thousand to make the lawsuit go away.

The county will continue fighting other companies who haven't opened their checkbooks.

Nobody was budging in the battle, so letting Travelocity buy their way out of the suit apparently made sense to the Broward commission.

Even now, nobody is giving an inch.

"This settlement is not an admission of liability by Travelocity for past or future taxes, nor is it an admission by the county that anything less than the full amount of the assessment was due and owing," said the agreement, which is posted on the Broward County Commission website.

"This settlement is based on the parties' common desire to compromise this dispute and is not an indication that either side agrees with the other side's view of the facts or law."

With the Travelocity settlement worked out, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis on Monday set an Oct. 29 trial date in the case, which continues against other firms such as Expedia and Orbitz.

Brick and mortar hotels must pay the tourist development tax to support advertising, tourism infrastructure and other projects, but online travel companies have rejected that claim. Counties claim they are losing tens of millions of dollars, and in Florida, 17 banded together to sue.

Leon County Circuit Judge James Shelfer ruled last month in favor of the online-travel industry, saying state lawmakers had not made clear that the companies are required to pay the disputed taxes. Attorneys for the counties last week filed formal notice that they would appeal Shelfer's ruling to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Broward has filed a separate case, and judge Lewis said he plans to move forward despite judge Shelfer's decision.

The travel companies say if they lose, customers could pay more for hotel deals online.

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