Pa. to tax on­line lodg­ing rev­enue

Airbnb will col­lect 6 per­cent state tax.

The Times-Tribune - - Local - HAR­RIS­BURG BUREAU CHIEF BY ROBERT SWIFT

HAR­RIS­BURG — Hosts in Penn­syl­va­nia who rent their homes or rooms to travelers and guests through an on­line hos­pi­tal­ity com­pany will be cov­ered un­der a new state tax col­lec­tion agree­ment start­ing July 1.

The state Rev­enue Depart­ment an­nounced the agree­ment Wed­nes­day to have Airbnb col­lect the state 6 per­cent ho­tel oc­cu­pancy tax for hosts who par­tic­i­pate on its shared ser­vices web­site.

Penn­syl­va­nia collects the oc­cu­pancy tax when a prop­erty — in­clud­ing a house, room or apart­ment — is rented to a guest for pe­ri­ods of less than 30 days.

This agree­ment means Airbnb hosts won’t have to col­lect the tax from guests and send the money to the rev­enue depart­ment on their own.

“This is a win-win for the Com­mon­wealth,” said Gov. Tom Wolf. “The agree­ment with Airbnb places Penn­syl­va­nia at the fore­front of states re­spond­ing to the shar­ing econ­omy and will help to level the play­ing field across the lodg­ing in­dus­try.”

Penn­syl­va­nia joins a num­ber of states where Airbnb vol­un­tar­ily is col­lect­ing the tax on be­half of hosts and guests, com­pany of­fi­cials said.

“This agree­ment al­lows the state of Penn­syl­va­nia to harness the eco­nomic im­pact of home shar­ing while also mak­ing it eas­ier for Airbnb hosts ... to com­ply with state tax laws,” said Josh Meltzer, Airbnb re­gional direc­tor of public pol­icy.

State tax only

The agree­ment cov­ers the state tax only and not money owed by hosts and guests for county ho­tel room taxes apart from Philadel­phia and Al­legheny County, said rev­enue depart­ment spokesman Kevin Hen­sil.

The rev­enue depart­ment es­ti­mates the agree­ment will gen­er­ate nearly $1 mil­lion in rev­enue.

The com­pany re­ports more than 12,000 ac­tive list­ings as of June 9 in Penn­syl­va­nia, of which 870 are in the Po­conos. Airbnb in­cludes Mon­roe, Pike, Wayne, Lack­awanna, Luzerne and Schuylkill coun­ties as in the Po­conos.

In 2015, Airbnb hosts in the Po­conos had the high­est av­er­age earn­ings, at $7,100, while the statewide av­er­age was $5,000, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany.

The Po­cono Moun­tains Vis­i­tors Bureau was press­ing to have home­own­ers who rent rooms and houses also col­lect and re­mit state and county ho­tel taxes so they are on par com­pet­i­tively with com­mer­cial busi­nesses.

‘Wel­come news’

“I think it’s (the agree­ment) wel­come news,” said bureau Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Carl Wil­gus. “It doesn’t solve all the prob­lems with short-term rentals, but at least it puts them on a lit­tle bit more of a level play­ing field with com­mer­cial op­er­a­tors who live by all the rules and reg­u­la­tions.”

A bureau study last year de­ter­mined that 1,200 pri­vate prop­er­ties are listed on shared ser­vices sites for short-term rentals in Mon­roe, Car­bon, Wayne and Pike coun­ties.

Rental ac­tiv­ity spikes with ma­jor events such as the NASCAR races in the Po­conos, U.S. Open Golf Tour­na­ment near Pitts­burgh and the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Philadel­phia.

The rev­enue depart­ment re­cently sent more than 2,500 let­ters to prop­erty own­ers us­ing home-shar­ing sites with in­struc­tions to de­ter­mine whether the ho­tel oc­cu­pancy tax ap­plies to them. Con­tact the writer: rswift@timessham­rock.com

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