New Hampshire campground owners and campers say the jury is still out on the effect of the newly imposed 9% camping tax, but campground owners charged with collecting it say their collective nightmare is just beginning.

It’s been three weeks since the Legislature passed the budget that included, among other things, a new tax on camping that, for most of them, has become more than a customer relations issue, according to the Laconia Citizen.

“It’s an accounting headache,” said Jon Mackie, who with his wife Sue are the owners of Clearwater and the Meredith Woods Campground in Meredith and who initially opposed the tax on its merit and are now realizing the accounting changes that they’ll need to make.

“For me, the biggest issue has been the level of indecision on the part of the state,” said Mackie, who said he’s still trying to determine how to tax his guests who partially paid before the effective date of July 1 but who are actually camping after the effective date.

“This came right in the middle of summer and just before the Fourth of July,” said Laurie Osuchowski of the Twin Tamarack Family Camping and RV Park in New Hampton. “It just blew me away. I rent dirt. The people who came bring everything else.”

She said her husband John attended a State Department of Revenue Administration question-and-answer session earlier this week and said even the DRA representative couldn’t answer many of their questions. 

Too Many Questions

“My God, they have four pages of frequently asked questions on their website,” Osuchowski said.

As for the campers and the camping season, all said the weather, the recession and the tax are contributing to a lousy season so far but, according to Osuchowski, people are camping anyway.

“So far, we’re off about 15%,” she said, adding that it’s too early to judge the entire season.

For Bill Quigley, the marketing director of the Gunstock Mountain Resort, the tax cuts two ways.

“The people from New Hampshire are making it known they don’t like it,” he said in echoing the owners of the private campgrounds. “For out-of-staters, it’s just another tax.”

Quigley said this season, so far, the issue is the rain. 

“Let’s face it, there’s nothing more miserable than spending five days in a nylon tent in the rain with your family,” he said.

Also active in the Lakes Regions are the blogs – Weblogs where people can voice their opinions, mostly anonymously, but are nonetheless widely read – especially the Winnipesaukee Forum, a message board and opinion Website covering just about anything happening in the Lakes Region. 

“When you check into a campground with your recreational vehicle, you basically bring your own bedroom, living room, and kitchen and you cook your own meals, and then the state will collect a nine percent lodging and meals tax,” writes FATLAZYLESS on the Winnipesaukee Forum who, in the same breath, also questioned why campgrounds have, so far, been tax exempt. “Welcome to tax-free New Hampshire.”

But yet another, KAMPER, writes, “Campgrounds are not that expensive. Fifty dollars a night would be on the steep end. I don’t think anyone is going to cancel a vacation because their stay is going to cost another $4.50 a night.”