To tax or not to tax—that was the question short-term rental owners, hotel owners and the Columbia Visitors Bureau debated last night.
Currently, short-term rental owners do not have to pay the five percent lodging tax that hotels are subject to, and there is no mandatory health and safety inspection for short-term rentals. The rising popularity of AirBnB and other similar services prompted the Visitors Bureau to talk with rental owners about the pros and cons of implementing the lodging tax and safety restrictions for short-term rentals.
“Really, this was just to start a conversation with the community to see what the feelings were, and to kind of talk about what our thoughts were and get feedback,” Amy Schneider, Director of the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, said.
She said the Visitors Bureau is considering the lodging tax and restrictions for economic and safety reasons. It will report its findings from meetings and an online survey to the City Council.
In February 2015, there were just 3 AirBnBs in Columbia. There were 281 active rentals this month, according to a Columbia Visitors Bureau report.
Some short-term rental owners at the meeting said implementing the lodging tax and requiring safety inspections could make running their small business no longer worth the added cost. They also worry it will make them less competitive with hotels.
But David Thomas, a local AirBnB owner, said he is not concerned about the proposed lodging tax and regulations.
“I think any activity should have a certain degree of regulation, and there should be safety issues addressed,” Thomas said.
The lodging tax currently only applies to rentals with 12 rooms or more for stays under 28 days.
If short-term rentals are required to pay the lodging tax, the Visitors Bureau will advertise the short-term rentals along with hotels on its website so short-term rentals also benefit from the Visitors Bureau services.
Other places in Missouri, like Jefferson City, Springfield, Kansas City and St. Charles Count, have recently added ordinances or considered ordinances for short-term rentals.