Airbnb’s LA Tax Deal: Different City, Same Shady Playbook

Airbnb’s most recent attempt to subvert the efforts of community members and policy makers was on full display yesterday when it was announced that the company has convinced Los Angeles to agree to a special tax plan.

Sidestepping the ongoing City Planning Commission process that is developing regulations on Short-Term Rental (STR) companies like Airbnb, the company did what it does best: closed the doors to a smoke-filled room and cut a shady deal.

Zero transparency. Zero accountability. It’s as if the company thinks it deserves to be treated differently than… literally everyone else.

Let’s do a quick (partial) recap:

  • In San Francisco (the company’s hometown), Airbnb couldn’t live up to its promises to help the city collect taxes and is now suing the city to wash its hands of its responsibility.
  • In Madison, Mayor Paul Soglin has called Airbnb’s tax deal “a sham.”
  • In Hawaii, Governor Ige said that Airbnb’s preferred tax collection method could be used as a “shield” for operators to dodge local laws.
  • In Florida, Airbnb placed gag orders on public servants to prevent them from talking about tax deals they cut.

The list goes on and on and on.

Given that commercial operators use Airbnb to drive 40% of the company’s revenue (a cool $500 million) in 14 of the country’s largest cities, it’s not surprising that the company is desperate to protect – to “shield” – those operators from additional scrutiny.

The bad news for Airbnb? Cities and states – like New York – are getting fed up.