It may not exactly be the fall of Western Civilization, but it's always seemed a little shady. Despite operating, in effect, as a short-term hotel service, Airbnb hasn't paid the city's 14 percent hotel room tax.
In a blog post today, Airbnb's regional head of public policy David Owen says that the company will begin paying that tax on October 1st. That's a year after the firm said it would be willing to begin paying the tax, a delay that Airbnb attributed to the difficulty of "individual hosts to pay taxes that were designed for traditional hotels that operate year round." Which—fair point. But year long difficulty?
Starting in two weeks, Airbnb will be adding a surcharge to guest's bill to collect the city's transit occupancy tax. It's similar to a system already in place in Portland.
It's not clear the extent to which the tax issue will affect the larger—and perhaps stalled—push by city Supervisor David Chiu to regulate Airbnb hostings in the city. As Randy Shaw, the head of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, told the SF Business Times, "The concerns people have are on land use issues. I personally never doubted Airbnb would pay the tax."
But yeah, just to be clear. A major corporation just unilaterally announced that it would start paying a tax that it been ignoring for years, but that it wouldn't be paying back taxes. This is apparently a thing you can do. We think it's part of the Patriot Act, maybe? Wish our tax accountants could get on that.