Online home rental service Airbnb has agreed to pay San Francisco's 14 percent hotel tax, addressing at least one concern of critics who say the company is flouting regulations.
Under the plan, Airbnb would collect taxes directly from guests as an extra charge on their bill - the same way hotels do, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Monday. For example, a guest staying in a $100-per-night Airbnb room would pay an extra $14 a night.
The San Francisco-based company, which connects travelers with people renting out their homes, said it will begin remitting taxes to the city by the summer. Out of the 32,000 cities worldwide where Airbnb operates, San Francisco and Portland, Ore., would be the first ones where it collects hotel taxes. The company agreed last week to collect taxes in Portland.
"We have repeatedly said that we believe our community in San Francisco should pay its fair share of taxes," David Hantman, the company's head of global public policy, wrote in a blog post.
The move could potentially add millions to San Francisco coffers and help Airbnb avoid conflict with regulators - especially if the company seeks to go public, the Chronicle reported.
Airbnb has been criticized by city officials, landlords and hotels, who say it ignores local regulations, including the hotel tax and a ban on renting residential spaces for less than 30 days.
Marina Franco, an attorney at a law firm that represents property owners, said the tax is not enough for landlords.
"Our concerns are the liabilities of having strangers in our buildings, the fact that (tenants) are renting rooms for more than landlords are entitled to charge and that they don't have conditional use permits to run hotels," Franco said.
San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu is working on legislation that would establish a framework for the company's operations.
"Now that they are doing the right thing and remitting taxes, I'm looking forward to moving forward on legislation to regulate shareable housing," he said.