Alberta hoteliers renew calls for Airbnb tax crackdown


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On Monday, which marked the deadline for Canadians to file their taxes, the Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) renewed its call for Ottawa to appropriately tax online operators who offer homes for short-term rental.

“It’s tax deadline day for everybody else,” said AHLA President Dave Kaiser.

“While we’ve targeted three layers of government, this is really about the federal piece; about them paying their fair share of this, particularly GST.”

He said many home-share accommodations are never occupied by their owners, who rent the units out year-round. These are scenarios that should be considered taxable businesses.

“They’re commercial operators 365 days of the year and there are people who own multiple units for this purpose,” he said.

Motels and hotels, he added, are taxed 2.5 times more than residential property — a reality being exploited by home shares.

And, he said, such operations also dodge the four per cent provincial hotel levy, which funds tourism promotion.

“They’re getting the benefit of that, but not contributing to it,” said Kaiser.

Countries like Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. are already treating their Airbnb-type operations more like the conventional hotel sector, he added.

A study done for the Alberta Hotel Association a year ago concluded that the short-term rental sector in Calgary could generate $1.3 million in taxes and fees annually.

But with that industry growing by 100 per cent annually, that revenue potential is growing rapidly in a city that counted 3,000 rooms available last December.

A Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) spokesman said home sharers are obligated to pay taxes, but added Ottawa is still working with them to encourage compliance.

“The CRA has been working on a number of proactive initiatives to ensure that sharing economy participants are aware of their tax obligations and pay their taxes,” Patrick Samson said in a statement.

But in some cases, foreign suppliers who are outside the CRA’s taxation mandate can be involved.

In a statement, Airbnb spokeswoman Lindsey Scully said the company’s participants do pay federal taxes and it is making efforts to ensure its home sharers do just that.

“Airbnb has always been clear — we want to pay our fair share,” said Scully, who called the hotel’s accusations purely about preserving market share. “The big hotels should join Airbnb and focus on creating new and modern rules, instead of engaging in self-interested attacks on everyday Canadians sharing their homes in an attempt to protect their profits.”

The home-share sector’s been compared by some to similarly disruptive ride-sharing companies like Uber, which has also been criticized for not playing by the same regulatory rules as taxis.

Following a number of behaviour complaints from Airbnb neighbours throughout Calgary, city council’s begun moving towards regulating and licensing what some are calling mini hotels.

on Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn


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