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Airbnb to collect 14 percent hotel tax in San Francisco

Airbnb will begin collecting occupancy taxes on behalf of its hosts in San Francisco from October 1, as it works to legitimise its service in the face of pressure by local regulators.

Peer-to-peer lodgings marketplace provider Airbnb has announced that it will begin collecting 14 percent occupancy taxes in San Francisco starting from October 1.

The company's regional head of public policy David Owen said in a blog post published on September 17 that Airbnb will remit the collected taxes to the city on behalf of its hosts.

"Our community members in San Francisco have told us they want to pay their fair share, and the overwhelming majority have asked us to help," said Owen. "In the past, it's been difficult for individual hosts to pay taxes that were designed for traditional hotels that operate year round.

"This has been a complicated issue, and we're happy to be taking action to help simplify the collection process for hosts, guests, and for the city," he said.

This is Airbnb's latest move in its efforts to appease regulators and local government bodies that have taken issue with some elements of the company's service, with its short-term lodging rental occasionally falling foul of local by-laws' jurisdiction.

In March, Airbnb's head of global public policy David Hantman said in a blog post that the company had received an "incredible outpouring" of support for its "Shared City" initiative, announced in March.

The initiative saw Airbnb launch its tax collection and remittance program initially in Portland, Oregon, during July — along with the plan to launch in its home town of San Francisco.

"We have repeatedly said that we believe our community in San Francisco should pay its fair share of taxes," said Hantman in the post. "We know from countless discussions with our hosts that they want to pay taxes, but some of these rules are arcane and difficult to follow. Some hosts have even tried to pay taxes in San Francisco and been turned away."

For reservations in San Francisco booked on or after October 1, Airbnb guests will see a new line item for their receipt — the city-imposed Transient Occupancy Tax, which stands at 14 percent.

The tax will be added to the total amount paid by guests on stays of fewer than 30 days. Airbnb said that hosts will not need to do anything to ensure that the tax has been collected. The taxes will then be remitted by Airbnb to San Francisco City on behalf of the hosts.

"We're not the only home-sharing company operating in San Francisco, and we hope other companies will join us in implementing similar programs. We think it's the right thing to do in San Francisco, and we're proud to be moving forward," said Owen.