Airbnb paid more than $136 million to the state and to local governments in 2019, including $1.8 million to Sarasota County

Latest statewide figure up from $89.5 million in 2018

Image from the Airbnb website

With its release this week of its annual Florida tax report, Airbnb announced that it collected and remitted more than $136.7 million in tax revenue to the state and to local governments on behalf of its online rental platform hosts in 2019, up from $89.5 million in 2018.

In November 2019, as The Sarasota News Leader previously reported, the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office reported receiving $1,664,256.33 from Airbnb during the 2019 fiscal year, which concluded on Sept. 30, 2019.

For the calendar year of 2019, Airbnb reported that it paid Sarasota County $1.8 million.

At the end of the 2018 fiscal year, the county had taken in $1,105,374.61 from Airbnb, Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates’ staff noted at that time.

After more than three years of negotiations with Airbnb, Sarasota County finally reached an agreement with the company in April 2017 that called for it to remit its hosts’ Tourist Development Tax — or “bed tax” — revenue to the Tax Collector’s Office. Airbnb began those payments in May 2017. By the end of the 2017 fiscal year, the county had received a total of $310,755.25 from Airbnb.

These are the 2019 revenue totals, though the chart says 2018, Airbbnb explains. The list includes each county to which the online rental platform paid more than $80,000 in ‘bed tax’ revenue for the 2019 calendar year. Image courtesy Airbnb

In 2015, the Airbnb news release explains, the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) “authorized the online rentals platform to collect and remit the state sales tax on behalf of all the 60,000 Airbnb vacation rental hosts throughout the state. “As a result,” the release continues, “in 2019 Airbnb delivered $97.1 million in sales tax revenue to the DOR, as Airbnb vacation rental hosts throughout the state earned a combined $1.2 billion in supplemental income through the platform. The $97.1 million in sales tax revenue delivered to the state is up from $62.5 million in 2018.”

The news release further explains that “Airbnb also has voluntary agreements with a number of Florida counties” to allow the platform to collect and remit Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue on behalf of its hosts in each jurisdiction. “Airbnb now has bed tax agreements in place in 44 of the 67 Florida counties,” the news release adds. “Among those 44 counties, Airbnb delivered a combined $39.7 million in local bed tax revenue in 2019. That $39.7 million is up from $27 million in 2019,” the release says.

Slightly more than two weeks before Airbnb issued its report, the South Florida Sun Sentinel questioned whether South Florida tourism had peaked. The Jan. 31 article noted that hotel occupancy rates and average daily room rates “were down slightly in Broward and Miami-Dade [counties] last year,” compared to the data for 2018.

That has been an issue in Sarasota County, as well, Virginia Haley, president of the county’s tourism office — Visit Sarasota County — has noted during discussions with the County Commission and the county’s Tourist Development Council. The number of hotel rooms in Sarasota County has climbed 41% since 2016, based on research undertaken by a Tallahassee firm on behalf of Visit Sarasota County.

This graphic shows the rise in the number of hotel rooms in the county. Image courtesy Visit Sarasota County

The Sun Sentinel article added, “Local tourism leaders cite a host of factors — including an inevitable cooling after years of growth, combined with competition from Caribbean resorts reopening after damaging hurricanes, new hotel rooms locally and more private homes offered for short-term rentals through Airbnb, VRBO or HomeAway.”

Last month, one hotel developer who is a member of the Sarasota County Tourist Development Council — Angus Rogers of Sarasota — voiced concern about the local increase in rentals of accommodations through online platforms. He pointed out that hotels must comply with county construction standards and health regulations, for example, which do not apply to home rentals.

The Sun Sentinel article underscored other comments that Rogers made on Jan. 16: “Lower hotel rates might be welcomed by consumers, but not by local workers who depend on tourism revenue to make their mortgage payments and feed their families.”

Haley of Visit Sarasota County has noted, too, that lower room rate revenue means less Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue. Yet, those TDT funds pay for a wide array of county services and initiatives — from the cleaning of restrooms at public beaches; to upkeep at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, where the Baltimore Orioles will begin their 10th Spring Training season on Feb. 23; to support for arts and cultural programming in the county; to funding for the marketing of the county to tourists.

This pie chart shows how county Tourist Development Tax revenue was spent in the 2019 fiscal year. Image courtesy Sarasota County

In Tax Collector Ford-Coates’ annual reports on the TDT revenue, she and her staff also have pointed to their constant efforts to search online platforms for details that might lead them to owners of homes in the county who are not paying the 5% tax on rentals.