TAX­MAN’S SCAREBNB FOR MUMS AND DADS

Short-stay busi­ness hands over the de­tails of hosts to ATO as part of ma­jor crack­down on shar­ing econ­omy

The West Australian - - FRONT PAGE - BEN HAR­VEY AND NEALE PRIOR

Airbnb hosts who fail to de­clare their in­come are be­ing tar­geted by the Aus­tralian Tax­a­tion Of­fice.

The pop­u­lar home-share plat­form, which is worth more than $30 mil­lion to the WA econ­omy, yes­ter­day told its users that it was “cur­rently un­der le­gal no­tice by the Aus­tralian Tax­a­tion Of­fice to share in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing your host­ing ac­tiv­ity”.

Any­one who used Airbnb in the first six months of the year is in the tax of­fice’s cross hairs, with Airbnb hand­ing over names, ad­dresses and phone num­bers. An ATO spokes­woman said it had launched an ex­ten­sive data match­ing pro­gram to iden­tify tax­pay­ers re­ceiv­ing money from short-term rentals.

She said in­for­ma­tion from on­line plat­form shar­ing sites for about 190,000 Aus­tralians would be ex­am­ined to “iden­tify

tax­pay­ers who have left out rental in­come and over-claimed de­duc­tions”.

Fail­ure to de­clare in­come to the tax of­fice can re­sult in hefty penalty rates and even prison in cases of sys­temic tax eva­sion.

Mar­garet River Guest House owner Deb­bie Noo­nan, who has cam­paigned against peo­ple us­ing the plat­form to il­le­gally rent pri­vate homes, was one of the thou­sands of Aus­tralians who re­ceived the no­ti­fi­ca­tion.

“There are a lot of peo­ple who are go­ing to be stung by cap­i­tal gains,” she said.

“In­sur­ance fraud and bank fraud are other prob­lems peo­ple are go­ing to en­counter. There are a lot of peo­ple run­ning small busi­nesses from their homes who have a reg­u­lar home loan ap­pli­ca­tion. This will open the flood­gates to more is­sues. The ram­i­fi­ca­tions for a lot peo­ple will be con­sid­er­able.”

Tax ac­coun­tant Carlo Gen­ovese said peo­ple us­ing Airbnb and Uber should use the de­tailed full-year fi­nan­cial re­ports pro­vided by these groups as the ba­sis for their tax re­turn.

Mr Gen­ovese said the ATO had de­vel­oped so­phis­ti­cated data gath­er­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties and peo­ple took big risks imag­in­ing they could sat­isfy the tax of­fice by scrib­bling their fi­nan­cial records down on a piece of paper.

“Un­less you are dumb enough to try op­er­at­ing off your own bat, you are far bet­ter off us­ing Airbnb’s re­ports,” he said.

Aus­tralian Ho­tels As­so­ci­a­tion (WA) boss Bradley Woods wel­comed the crack­down. “As the un­reg­u­lated ac­com­mo­da­tion sec­tor has grown, tra­di­tional ac­com­mo­da­tion providers have suf­fered as a re­sult of un­equitable tax­a­tion ar­range­ments whilst tax­pay­ers have missed out on a sub­stan­tial rev­enue stream,” he said.

Airbnb’s Brent Thomas said the tax sys­tem was con­fus­ing: “We shouldn’t be mak­ing it harder for peo­ple to sup­ple­ment their in­comes, com­bat cost of liv­ing and help gen­er­ate jobs.”

In Au­gust last year The Week­end West warned about an un­fore­seen con­se­quence of the rise of Airbnb.

In that in­stance it was about con­cerns about the fall­out for the tra­di­tional hol­i­day ac­com­mo­da­tion sec­tor in Mar­garet River.

Busi­nesses said that the rules, or rather lack of them, around the op­er­a­tion of Airbnb had meant that the com­pe­ti­tion for the tourism dol­lar was any­thing but a fair fight.

Mar­garet River’s reg­is­tered ac­com­mo­da­tion providers were con­cerned that the sites did not have the same ex­pen­sive over­heads of reg­is­tered providers and did not need to com­ply with statu­tory re­quire­ments govern­ing is­sues such as fire pre­ven­tion, park­ing and food prepa­ra­tion.

But to­day this news­pa­per re­veals change is on the way.

Peo­ple who rent their homes on Airbnb and fail to de­clare the in­come are be­ing tar­geted by the Aus­tralian Tax­a­tion Of­fice.

Airbnb yes­ter­day told plat­form users that it was “cur­rently un­der le­gal no­tice by the Aus­tralian Tax­a­tion Of­fice to share in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing your host­ing ac­tiv­ity”.

Any­one who used Airbnb to rent out rooms or en­tire homes in the first six months of the year is in the tax of­fice’s cross hairs, with Airbnb hand­ing over names, ad­dresses and phone num­bers.

It is es­ti­mated that about 190,000 peo­ple will be put un­der the mi­cro­scope.

Aus­tralian Ho­tels As­so­ci­a­tion (WA) boss Bradley Woods wel­comed the crack­down.

“This will sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove trans­parency and in­crease eq­uity be­tween tra­di­tional tax-pay­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion providers and the largely un­reg­u­lated short stay ac­com­mo­da­tion sec­tor. This is an im­por­tant de­vel­op­ment that will re­sult in greater ac­count­abil­ity of on­line ac­com­mo­da­tion plat­forms and short-stay ac­com­mo­da­tion providers.

“Prop­erty own­ers who have cor­rectly as­sessed and de­clared their in­come tax, GST and other obli­ga­tions or earn­ings from these ac­tiv­i­ties and com­plied with Aus­tralian tax laws, should have noth­ing to be con­cerned about.

“As the un­reg­u­lated ac­com­mo­da­tion sec­tor has grown, tra­di­tional ac­com­mo­da­tion providers have suf­fered as a re­sult of un­equitable tax­a­tion ar­range­ments whilst tax­pay­ers have missed out on a sub­stan­tial rev­enue stream,” Mr Woods said.

He makes some ex­tremely valid ob­ser­va­tions.

There is a need to en­sure a level play­ing field.

It is in all our in­ter­ests for long-term, tra­di­tional ac­com­mo­da­tion op­er­a­tors to re­main vi­able.

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