Airbnb wants to pay taxes, be regulated
Since 2015, Airbnb has been engaged in conversations with lawmakers at every level of government to be given the ability to collect and remit taxes on behalf of our hosts. Had we been able to collect and remit taxes during this time, our host community would have sent more than $70 million to Hawaii state and local coffers. Despite other homesharing platforms like VRBO having a larger presence in Hawaii, Airbnb has been the only company repeatedly willing to collect and remit hotel taxes. While corporate hotel chains continue to claim they want a level playing field with homesharing platforms, they continue to oppose the one thing that would do just that: allowing companies like Airbnb to collect and remit the very same tourism taxes that hotels pay.
As a result, the state is missing out on tens of millions in tax revenue by not collecting transient accommodations tax (TAT) and general excise tax (GET) from home-sharing platforms, including more than $30 million from Airbnb hosts this year alone. Short-term rental opponents have falsely asserted that tax collection legislation would preempt the counties from enforcing or updating short-term rental regulations and would somehow hide the accuracy of taxes collected. Contrary to claims made by groups opposing our proposal, the tax agreement in Hawaii has a number of safeguards. Unlike legislation, a voluntary collection agreement gives the state the flexibility to amend the terms, or terminate it altogether within 30 days, if the governor or Department of Taxation deems it necessary.
It also includes provisions to ensure the agreement does not preempt the counties from enacting or enforcing short-term rental regulations. Hawaii would also have access to information that allows it to audit the taxes we remit to ensure every dollar is accounted for.
Given these terms, it makes sense to allow the state to collect tax dollars while the counties continue to work on their regulations and enforcement efforts.
The state has already missed the opportunity to collect tens of millions of dollars; why wait one day longer or miss a dollar more? We are collecting taxes in over 350 jurisdictions around the world, including more than 300 in the U.S. Local and state governments have embraced these agreements as a means to lighten the administrative burden associated with collecting taxes, making it easier for hosts to pay taxes and help pay for public programs. In Chicago and Los Angeles, a portion of their tax revenue was used to support affordable housing and homelessness programs, and in Portland, 100 percent of lodging taxes from short-term rentals are deposited into the city’s affordable housing fund.
We recognize Hawaii is a unique and special place. That is why we’re working to balance the economic opportunities of homesharing by ensuring badly needed tax revenues are paid and that sensible regulations for the industry are enacted. While businesses don’t often volunteer to pay taxes and rarely ask to be regulated, we firmly believe it’s the right thing to do for the islands, its residents and our hosts.