“Tax Day” for Airbnb

Every year in April, taxpayers – both individuals and businesses – step up to support the vital public services that underpin our communities. Teachers and schools, police and fire departments, roads, bridges and infrastructure are paid for by the taxes that we all share responsibility for.

It is sad that despite promoting itself as the golden child of the sharing economy, Airbnb has decided year after year to evade its social obligation and dodge its fair share of taxes.

In cities from coast to coast, Airbnb has worked hard to bully lawmakers into accepting so-called “voluntary collection agreements” for the collection and remittance of transient occupancy taxes.

Here’s how those agreements usually go: Airbnb asserts (without proof) the size of its footprint in a given community. It then offers local lawmakers a lump sum based on that unverifiable amount of revenue. Next, it bullies and pressures lawmakers into accepting its offer. Finally, it places de facto gag orders on municipalities to prevent them from telling the public how the deal is structured.

These deals are not transparent, lack effective enforcement mechanisms and give special treatment to a $30 billion company.

While Airbnb says it wants to work with cities, it continues to conceal the majority of the enormous revenue it generates from commercial landlords using the site to run unregulated hotels. All to the detriment of neighborhoods and residents’ quality of life. While pledging more transparency, the company has done the opposite.

While you’ve likely spent recent days poring over your W2s and 1099s, Airbnb, on the other hand, seeks the luxury of simply writing a check for what it thinks it should pay – and then walking away. That’s not good corporate citizenship.

It’s not right, it’s not fair, and it’s no way to support communities.