Airbnb Says It Will Start Collecting the San Francisco Hotel Tax in October

The Sheldon Hotel on Post Street

Hospitality behemoth Airbnb says it will finally start collecting San Francisco's 14 percent transient occupancy tax on October 1, roughly a year after it first promised to collect the tax.

“This is the culmination of a long process that began earlier this year,” the company's regional head of public policy, David Owen, explained in a blog post. He bemoaned the difficulty of herding thousands of well-intentioned — but uninformed — individual hosts, and getting them to pay fees that have only been levied on traditional hotels.

“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,” Owen wrote.

[jump] The upshot? A new line item in each San Francisco Airbnb guest receipt. This, apparently, is the fruit of months of acrimonious debate, including a seven-hour Board of Supervisors committee meeting on Monday. To date, Airbnb has cost the city untold millions in owed taxes, and former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin has exhorted the company to pay up.

Granted, a new tax plan might help appease city regulators, but it wouldn't resolve ongoing disputes about Airbnb's legality. The company is currently fighting a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court for enabling SRO hotels to rent rooms to tourists, and its hosts still violate a planning commission rule that mandates landlords (and tenants) to get special permission before turning rental units into temporary vacation squats.

So, paying the hotel tax may be a step in the right direction. But it leaves many regulatory issues up in the air.

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