Airbnb this week fired back at a series of American Hotel & Lodging Association reports alleging the company is trying to avoid paying taxes in Los Angeles and other U.S. markets.
The most recent of AH&LA’s Pennsylvania State University-conducted studies of Airbnb, released last week, estimates that if Airbnb operators in Los Angeles followed the same tax rubric as other local lodging businesses in the region, they would have owed municipal governments more than $41 million in local taxes between October 2014 and September 2015. The report builds on an initial AH&LA study released in January.
Airbnb defended its practices in an April 4 letter addressed to AH&LA president Katherine Lugar, and provided to BTN. Airbnb global head of public policy Christopher Lehane wrote that the company has worked with governments across the country for more than two years to try to make it possible for Airbnb to collect and remit transient occupancy taxes on behalf of its hosts.
“In an effort to advance our commitment to pay hotel taxes, we have repeatedly offered to collect applicable hotel taxes on behalf of hosts in New York and Los Angeles, our two largest U.S. markets, dating back to 2014, as well as in any other municipality willing to work with us on the tax front,” Lehane stated. “Had we been able to collect and remit taxes in New York and Los Angeles, we would have sent a combined $63 million in new revenue to two cities alone last year.”
Lehane wrote that Airbnb cannot collect or remit taxes in Los Angeles until the city council reaches a decision on how to regulate short-term rentals, and further puts forth that AH&LA and other hotel industry players have worked to oppose policies that would allow Airbnb to collect or remit taxes in New York City.
For its part, AH&LA maintains the position that it wants a level playing field in which all lodging operators play by the same rules.
“The commercial operators that Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms facilitate ought to play by the same rules as the tens of thousands of lodging properties … that we represent all across the country, each of which pay their fair share of taxes, obey zoning and licensing laws and abide by strict health and safety regulations that protect communities and the traveling public,” AH&LA senior vice president and head of government affairs Vanessa Sinders said in a statement to BTN. “In contrast to Airbnb, these properties do not pick and choose which laws they follow or when they pay taxes or how much they are willing to pay.”