Airbnb announced today that it will soon begin collecting and remitting a 14 percent hotel occupancy fee for guest stays occurring in San Francisco. In a blog post, Airbnb’s regional head of public policy David Owen wrote that the policy will go into effect for all bookings that take place on or after October 1 in its home city.
The introduction of the tax is just the latest step in Airbnb’s efforts to legitimize its peer-to-peer lodgings marketplace in the face of regulators and local government agencies in cities around the world. It’s been working with a number of agencies in cities like San Francisco, Portland, Paris, Berlin, and New York City to ease concerns revolving around public safety, as well as those about Airbnb hosts running illegal hotel operations.
That debate came to a head in New York, where Airbnb ended up capitulating in a legal battle with the state Attorney General over user data related to hosts who were operating multiple listings. Airbnb ended up clearing its listings of so-called “bad actors” in that market when hit with a subpoena, and eventually turned over user data so the AG there could go after those hosts.
The debate in San Francisco hasn’t been quite as acrimonious, and in fact, Supervisor David Chiu is pushing legislation that would make short-term stays through Airbnb legal in the city. That legislation comes with some caveats around who can rent out their apartments and for how long, but it would at least settle the issue in Airbnb’s home market.
Key to that legislation will be its institution of the Transient Occupancy Tax, and Airbnb will likely play ball not just in San Francisco, but in other markets that require it in the future.
Airbnb said it would collect the tax and remit it to the city on behalf of guests and hosts, rather than requiring them to do any additional paperwork or tax filing on their own. At the same time, that tax could fundamentally change the price structure and attraction of booking an Airbnb — after all, in many cities Airbnbs cost less than comparable hotel rooms, especially during peak demand.