Agreement on Airbnb Inc. doesn’t cover regulatory issues
Written by Susan Danseyar on April 4, 2017
Miami-Dade commissioners on Tuesday approved 10-3 an agreement between the tax collector and Airbnb Inc. for collecting the 2% tourist development room tax, 1% professional sports franchise facility tax and 3% convention development tax and directed the administration to negotiate similar agreements with other short-term room rental services.
Tax revenue is estimated to be $6 million to $8 million yearly, according to Mayor Carlos Giménez. “Quality of life is paramount to all of us,” he said Tuesday. “I want to work with all of (the commissioners) on the regulations needed to safeguard residents and neighborhoods of this county.”
Speakers who supported the resolution included William D. Talbert III, chief executive officer and president at the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau; and Wendy Kallergis, president and CEO at Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association.
“I support the agreement with Airbnb legally operating in the county,” Ms. Kallergis said.
“We strongly support what’s in front of you,” Mr. Talbert said. “Airbnb is not paying the resort tax.”
According to a memo by Deputy Mayor Edward Marquez, the agreement aims to facilitate the immediate collection and remittance of tourist taxes for Airbnb resulting from booking transactions made on its internet-based platform.
Airbnb is an online marketplace and hospitality service allowing people to lease or rent short-term lodging including vacation and apartment rentals, home-stays, hostel beds or hotel rooms. The company doesn’t own any lodging but is a broker and receives commissions from guests and hosts with every booking.
Several commissioners asked if Airbnb is legal in the county today and allowed in residential areas. “They are still obligated to pay tourist taxes, even if used illegally in any way,” said a spokesperson for the county attorney’s office.
Mr. Giménez said Tuesday “this resolution does not preclude us from establishing any regulations we want. What it does do is put Airbnb on the same footing as hotels, which is why the hotel industry supports this.”
The operation is here, the mayor said, and needs to pay taxes. “This particular item makes Airbnb less of an attraction because now they have to pay taxes.”
Mr. Marquez wrote that the agreement doesn’t ask for the tourist taxes for accommodations booked in the past but the county reserves the right to collect them from guests, hosts or Airbnb in the future. He said Airbnb will begin collecting and paying tourist taxes no later than the first day of the calendar month “not less than two weeks” after the agreement is fully executed, which is projected to be May 1.
“Collections for the first year (of the agreement) are estimated at $6 million based on reported figures,” Mr. Marquez wrote. “The tourist taxes collected will be deposited into prescribed trust funds and used for eligible expenses (allowed by county and state law).”
Tourist taxes are imposed on short-term room rentals (six months or less) on the rental of living quarters or accommodations in a hotel, apartment hotel, motel, resort motel, apartment, apartment motel, rooming house, tourist or trailer camp, mobile home park, recreational vehicle park, condominium or timeshare resort, Mr. Marquez wrote.
Commissioner Sally Heyman told Miami Today on Monday that the legislation only addresses taxing the short-term room rental services and not zoning, regulations and enforcement.
Ms. Heyman said she’s supporting future legislation on those two or three areas. “We need comprehensive rules and protections for all involved.”
In 2014, the commission adopted legislation by Dennis Moss (who sponsored Tuesday’s resolution) directing the administration to determine the impact of peer-to-peer room rentals on county revenues and the county’s hotel industry and recommend steps to minimize negative impacts.
In July 2016, Mr. Marquez wrote, the Strategic Planning and Government Operations committee directed the administration to pursue a contractual arrangement with Airbnb so that tourist taxes can be paid to the county for booking transactions.
“Over the course of several months, the administration with the assistance of the county attorney’s office has negotiated the terms of this understanding with Airbnb. As reported to (the commission) in October, the county entered into negotiations with the goal of retaining its rights to: begin collection of tourist taxes for transactions on the Airbnb platform; collect back taxes from the party responsible to pay them; audit tax payments; and obtain the identity of host names and addresses either upfront or upon termination of a collection of tourist taxes in Miami-Dade resulting from booking transactions on Airbnb’s platform.”
Mr. Marquez said the agreement provides:
■Airbnb is to register as a “dealer” per state law for the reporting, collection and remittance of tourist taxes on behalf of guest or host when the agreement takes effect.
■Airbnb is to maintain a complete record of each booking transaction and property.
■The county tax collector must be able to audit Airbnb per county code, subject to a modification regarding non-disclosure of host and guest name and address.
The agreement doesn’t require Airbnb to disclose the name or address of hosts and guest involved in booking transactions. However, Mr. Marquez wrote, the agreement requires Airbnb to disclose this information if it enters into a collection agreement with any other county or municipality in Florida or the state’s Department of Revenue regarding tourist taxes that provide for disclosure of such information.
Mr. Marquez said although the agreement doesn’t address zoning or other regulatory concerns, the county reserves the right to pursue additional agreements or take legal action to enforce any regulations. “Additionally, the (agreement) does not confer legitimacy, bless or otherwise authorize the operation of any short-term room rental that violates county or municipal regulations. The (agreement) also requires Airbnb to update its website pages for the county to include, under its “regulations hosting” link, information about zoning, building housing standards, business license and taxes within the county and its municipalities.”
Mr. Marquez said the state’s Department of Revenue has a similar agreement with Airbnb for the collection of sales and local tourist taxes on behalf of 24 counties. Eleven other counties have made similar agreements.
Marcus Saiz de la Mora, tax collector division director for the county’s finance department, is to manage the agreement.