Airbnb to send hotel taxes to OKC
By Brian Brus
The Journal Record
OKLAHOMA CITY – The home-sharing company Airbnb is going to start remitting hotel taxes to Oklahoma City in September, officials said.
City Treasurer Bob Ponkilla said the California-based business surprised city officials with an offer to help collect the 5.5-percent tax due for each rental arranged through its online portal. Hotel operators said the change will help bring market forces back into balance, although Airbnb was already directing its hosts to remit taxes anyway.
“This is something we’ve been looking into the last couple of years with the increasing use of home-sharing on the Internet,” Ponkilla said. “I think this is a trend you’re seeing with more and more online vendors sending taxes where they’re supposed to go – you saw the same sort of deal with Amazon and the state.”
Amazon.com announced this year it would begin collecting Oklahoma sales tax in March. At the time, Gov. Mary Fallin said the revenue wouldn’t affect the state’s $870 million budget hole because the Oklahoma Tax Commission had already worked it into projections.
The Oklahoma Retail Protection Act, which was passed by the state Legislature last year, requires online retailers lacking a physical presence in Oklahoma to voluntarily collect sales tax or send customers a notice at the end of the year to do so themselves.
Airbnb has similar agreements already in place with about 310 government entities around the world.
Ponkilla said, “They’re all deciding it’s more beneficial to work with localities than continue to fight a legal battle.”
Airbnb allows consumers to rent short-term lodgings with residential property owners without dealing with middlemen or larger vacation rental operators. Eric Smith, a co-founder of the Sara Sara cupcake shop near downtown Oklahoma City, said the online hosting system has allowed the family-owned business to make a little money on the space above the shop.
Remitting a hotel tax won’t be a problem, Smith said, because the owners are already in the practice. He said he supports the city getting its proper share.
Oklahoma City real estate agent Aimee Struble said much the same. She and her husband, Jeff Struble, have a property that they rent out occasionally, and they’ve noticed how popular the system has become.
“As more and more have come online, we’re not as busy as we used to be, but it’s been nice,” she said. “They (Airbnb) have been very helpful already about directing us to collect taxes and how to remit them.”
The Airbnb agreement is one of several revenue enforcement programs City Hall has been pursuing to recapture lost funds due to the city. Those efforts yielded $803,446 for fiscal year ended June 30, beyond the $542,000 cost of the program.