Airbnb wants to give shares in its business to hosts

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Airbnb wants its hosts to own a piece of the home-rental service. 

The company is asking the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to ease regulations to provide equity to its hosts, according to a letter Airbnb sent to the agency that was reviewed by CBS MoneyWatch. Currently, securities law prohibits private companies like Airbnb from giving equity to anyone other than employees and investors. 

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Airbnb is asking the SEC to change regulations to include participants in the so-called sharing economy, allowing it to issue equity to hosts while the company remains private. The benefits, according to Airbnb, include widening stock ownership and allowing more "gig economy" workers to reap rewards when private companies sell their shares in an initial stock offering. 

"Airbnb is a community-based company, and we would be nothing without our hosts," Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said in a comment sent to CBS MoneyWatch. "We would like our most loyal hosts to be shareholders, but need these policies to change in order to make that happen."

Chesky noted that there are "a number" of issues that need to be addressed. Those include tax treatment of equity Airbnb would issue to hosts, who could be on the hook for paying taxes. The rule also currently caps the number of shareholders at 2,000 before a company is subject to public reporting requirements. Airbnb could be subject to that rule because millions of people use the online platform to rent their homes.

Airbnb says it currently has 5 million listings across more than 190 countries.