By Francisco Alvarado
THE REAL DEAL ARTICLE
The tourism tax-free days for Airbnb users in Miami-Dade County are over. County commissioners on Tuesday voted 10-3 to approve a memorandum of understanding between the Miami-Dade tax collector and the web-based short-term rental booking service provider.
Once it is officially signed by a scheduled date of May 1, Airbnb will start tacking on three taxes totaling 6 percent to all rentals in Miami-Dade, except Miami Beach where the company has to negotiate a separate deal with the city. However, Airbnb will not be required to provide the names and addresses of hosts and guests. According to a memo by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, tourism taxes collected by Airbnb could generate up to $6 million in the first year of the agreement.
“The first step is we tax them,” Gimenez said. “It puts Airbnb on more of a playing field with the hotel industry.”
The mayor also said the county would soon begin working on legislation to regulate homes and apartments rented through Airbnb and similar applications. “The quality of life of our residents is paramount to all of us,” he said. “If we have a disruptive technology that is affecting the quality of life, I welcome the regulations needed to address the issue.”
Broward County also approved a similar agreement on Tuesday, said Airbnb Florida policy director Tom Martinelli in a statement.
“The tax agreements with Miami-Dade and Broward counties reflect a core component of Airbnb’s mission to be good partners to Florida counties and municipalities,” Martinelli said. “These agreements will infuse vital new revenue streams into Miami-Dade and Broward by making it seamless and easy for our hosts to pay their fair share of taxes.”
He said Airbnb has been collecting and remitting the Florida state sales tax on all Airbnb bookings since 2015. Airbnb now collects and remits tourist taxes in 38 of the 63 Florida counties that assess a tourist tax.
Hotel industry boosters came out in full support of the Airbnb taxation measure. “I urge you to pass this agreement and right this ship,” said Stuart Blumberg, founder and former president of the Greater Miami and Beaches Hotel Association. “The agreement is about collecting millions of dollars that will go a long way to stop the hemorrhaging of the hotel bed taxes.”
Blumberg said hotel bookings have been slipping precipitously for the last 16 months. “This past February, which is the height of our season, the downtrend continued,” he said. “This is the first time in 10 years that the money we collect is downtrending.”
Wendy Kallergis, the hotel association’s current president, said the organization “supports the agreement with Airbnb to collect convention taxes and supports any future efforts to negotiate similar tax agreements with other [short-term rental platforms].”
Bill Talbert, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, had not offered a public opinion on the agreement prior to the commission meeting. However, he told commissioners he backed the memorandum of understanding. “We have been working with the administration for a year-and-a-half,” Talbert said. “We strongly support what is in front of you.”
While the county commission’s vote removes one obstacle for Airbnb, the company still faces hurdles in Miami and Miami Beach, where mayors for both cities are waging public battles to implement heavy restrictions against short-term rentals. Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado had asked the county to include a provision allowing municipalities to opt out of the tax collection agreement.
County Commissioner Joe Martinez, who voted no, argued the county should first come up with regulations before taxing Airbnb users.
“It’s putting the cart before the horse,” he said. “I know a lot of people in my neighborhood who don’t want it.”