Collier County still working toward deal with Airbnb
Collier County still is negotiating with Airbnb, the online housing rental giant, over a deal to have the company collect the county’s 4 percent bed tax from its users.
Collier Commissioners Burt Saunders and Penny Taylor have urged the county to get a deal done.
But there is still one main sticking point: The company wants to keep the names and addresses of its clients who rent out their homes anonymous.
“Basically, they would just send us a check and say, ‘Take our word for it,’ ” said Rob Stoneburner, deputy tax collector. “That’s hard to verify and impossible to audit. We don’t accept just checks.”
The tax collector’s office is still in talks with the company, Stoneburner said.
“We’ll go over some of the documentation that they would agree to send in, and we’ll see if that will satisfy us,” he said.
Airbnb has contracts with 30 counties, including Lee and Sarasota, in Florida to collect local rental taxes.
Under Collier rules, owners who rent out their homes for six months or less have to register their rental properties and collect and remit the bed tax each month, just as any hotel must.
Without a deal in place, the county could be missing out on a pot of money it is owed from people cashing in on the robust short-term rental market here, Saunders said.
“This tax is very important for our beach nourishment and so much else,” Saunders said.
“I just don’t want a large organization with what could be a large number of properties avoiding that tax," he said. "Quite frankly, it’s a competitive advantage that nobody should have.”
But the county doesn’t need a deal in place with the company to collect the tax from people using Airbnb to shop out there homes, Stoneburner said.
“It’s not like Airbnb is the only outfit,” he said. “There’s vrbo.com and flipkey.com and a ton of these platforms.
"But people who use these services have to go out into the world and advertise what they’re doing. I live in that same world and can look at all those advertisements and track what they’re doing and if they’re paying the tourist development tax.”
Stoneburner said he’s not naïve enough to think everybody who should is paying the tax.
“We’re pretty confident that we can go through these things and collect our taxes,” he said.
The benefit of having a deal in place with Airbnb would be to simplify the process. Rather than collecting from hundreds of homeowners, the county could collect from one company.
Airbnb, founded in 2008 and based in San Francisco, was started by a couple of roommates after they rented out an airbed in their spare room because they needed cash.
The company has an agreement with Florida to collect a 6 percent sales tax on rental bills.
It has a goal of reaching voluntary tax collection agreements with all 67 Florida counties.