Airbnb lauds Connecticut for ‘light’ regulatory approach
Published 12:00 am, Wednesday, November 29, 2017
This summer alone, Connecticut residents pocketed $12.5 million by renting their homes, apartments, cottages and couches to guests through online marketplace Airbnb.
Between Bridgeport, Danbury, Greenwich, Norwalk and Stamford, 290 Airbnb hosts tallied more than 6,900 guest stays, earning nearly $2 million between November 2016 and the end of last month.
During that time period, New Haven ranked as the top Connecticut destination for Airbnb guests with 13,700 stays, followed by Stonington with 4,300 and Groton, totaling 4,000. Stamford and Greenwich both slotted in the top ten with 2,500 and 1,600 stays, respectively.
Airbnb, which launched on the West Coast in 2008, has prompted controversies across the country and around the world in recent years, leading to a variety of regulatory strategies. Connecticut, especially in comparison to nearby New York City, has taken a lenient approach, according to Airbnb public policy associate Andrew Kalloch.
“It’s notable that Connecticut has a much more friendly regulatory environment for short-term rentals than other nearby locations,” Kalloch told Hearst Connecticut Media in an interview. “Connecticut has a great statewide model: it makes sure (occupancy) taxes are collected and remitted, but takes a light regulatory approach. It’s not a top-down regulation from Hartford.”
In July 2016, Airbnb began collecting the state’s 15 percent lodging tax on behalf of its Connecticut hosts and submitting the funds to the state Department of Revenue Services. That required an agreement between the two entities, a model Airbnb has pushed many states to adopt. Previously, people using the online marketplace to rent their homes were required to comply with state statutes independently.
Some Airbnb hosts’ failure to pay occupancy taxes, among other things, has drawn ire from trade organizations representing hotels and bed and breakfasts. From Airbnb’s perspective, some critics have simultaneously worked to prevent the company from reaching agreements to remit taxes on hosts’ behalf. “The tax argument is one that the hotel industry has used for some time,” Kalloch said. “We’ve always wanted to pay our fair share.”
In the last year and a half, Airbnb has collected more than $3 million in lodging taxes that have gone to Connecticut coffers. “We have collected over $500 million (in taxes) around the world,” Kalloch added.
Since 2015, all New England states except Massachusetts have struck deals with Airbnb over collecting taxes. New Jersey and New York are also holdouts, though individual communities have independently made agreements with Airbnb, according to an online list of places where the company collects and remits occupancy taxes.
The home-sharing company’s relationship with the lodging industry has been improving in some Connecticut communities, Kalloch said. “We have seen many bed and breakfasts in the area come onto our platform to market their rooms,” he said.
Greenwich’s Stanton House owners Doreen and Tog Pearson have at times listed their bed and breakfast on Airbnb, Tog Pearson said in an interview earlier this year. “If you can’t beat them, join them,” he said, adding that he has not generated much business from the strategy at the time.
Though Connecticut represents a smaller market than the rest of the tristate area, Kalloch said, “growth is just as robust. To the extent which Connecticut maintains a friendly regulatory environment that fosters responsible home sharing, we’ll continue to see growth that has a benefit for Connecticut families and businesses,” he said.
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