American Family Voices Demands Transparency from Airbnb on Tax Agreements by Issuing Open Records Requests in Jurisdictions Across the CountrySeptember 29, 2016
Washington, D.C. – Sept. 29, 2016 – American Family Voices announced today that it has issued public records requests to state, city, and county governments across the country that have signed Voluntary Collection Agreements (VCAs) with Airbnb, to demand answers about what really went on behind closed doors to cut these deals.
Open records requests were filed today in the following jurisdictions for all correspondence between Airbnb representatives and tax and budget officials relating to the tax agreements: Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles, CA; San Jose, CA; San Diego, CA; Jersey City, NJ; Orange County, FL; Pinellas County, FL; State of Florida; Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; State of Connecticut; and the State of Alabama.
Airbnb has pitched tax agreements to state and local officials across the country as a way to facilitate the collection and remittance of occupancy taxes from Airbnb users and hosts, but there is a troubling lack of transparency, with Airbnb refusing to provide proper data to tax authorities or the public.
Of particular concern is that these deals limit the ability of policymakers and the public to identify individuals that are using sites like Airbnb to list multiple residential units for short-term rental or listing units full-time that may otherwise have been rented out to long-term tenants.
“American Family Voices believes effective regulation of short-term rentals is a critical issue for middle class families in cities across the country,” said Lauren Windsor, AFV’s executive director. “Commercial landlords aren’t sharing their homes, they are running businesses, and taking valuable housing stock off the market, which in many cities is exacerbating the housing crisis. No other American company gets to pick and choose which laws to follow or what taxes to pay, how much to pay and when to pay. Airbnb should play by the same rules as every other business is required to play by law.”
Airbnb is cutting deals that only address one small part of the problem, tax remittance, rather than addressing these issues head on and working with policymakers to find a comprehensive legislative solution to protect middle class families, communities, neighborhoods, and small businesses.
Policymakers across the country have raised concerns (see below) about Airbnb’s approach in their own jurisdictions.
American Family Voices will keep the public informed on the progress of the requests filed today.
Policymakers Criticize Airbnb’s Lack of Transparency
“Will Airbnb divulge mysterious owners to Keys tax collector?” – Miami Herald, June 13, 2016
- “They have to provide me with more information” said Monroe County Florida Tax Collector Danise Henriquez. “There are too many things we just don’t know.
- “They want to send a lump sum every month and have us accept that,” Henriquez said. “I would lose total control.”
- “How do we know if they’re remitting the correct amount of tax?” she said. “Are these units in areas where they are legally allowed to rent? Do they have a homestead exemption? I don’t know.”
“Airbnb starts paying Florida taxes but still plays by different rules” – Tampa Tribune, April 22, 2016
- “We are greatly distressed by [Airbnb] because they are saying they are going to be the collection agent, and not publish the names and addresses of people providing the service,” said Palm Beach County Florida Tax Collector Anne Gannon. “Under the statute, we should be the agency that has the names.”
- “This is a big business. This is a fairness issue,” Gannon said. “We have brick and mortar hotels and bed and breakfasts pay us. Why should this business be exempt?”
“Airbnb to mayors: We want to pay taxes” – USA Today, June 25, 2016
- In one exchange, a city official (Mayor Paul Soglin) from Madison Wis., called Airbnb’s pitch “a sham.” “We have not had any responses as to tax collection,” he said. “We have not had any responses as to inventorying the Airbnbs in our city.”
“Gov. Ige says ‘Airbnb bill’ hides illegal rentals” – News of Hawaii, July 13, 2016
- “The use of an intermediary as a tax accommodations broker also provided a shield for owners who choose not to comply with county laws, and this was a big concern of mine,” Hawaii Gov. David Ige said.
About American Family Voices
American Family Voices is a progressive advocate for middle class and working class families on economic, health care, and consumer issues.
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