The Times-Tribune

Pa. to tax online lodging revenue

Airbnb will collect 6 percent state tax.


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@timesshamr­

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