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Pennsylvania

Airbnb opposes Pa. proposal to require homestay companies to share host data

| Wednesday, June 20, 2018, 5:30 p.m.
An Oakmont home that was listed on AirBNB during the U.S. Open in  in June 2016.
Justin Merriman | Tribune Review
An Oakmont home that was listed on AirBNB during the U.S. Open in in June 2016.

A bill that Airbnb says would unnecessarily expose hosts' private data was introduced this week in the state Senate.

House Bill 1810, which passed the House last week, would require Airbnb, HomeAway and other hosting platforms to share hosts' information with the Department of Revenue to help the state collect its hotel tax.

Some of their information — with the exception of their addresses — would become public.

“This is a bill in search of a problem,” said Andrew Kalloch, Airbnb's Americas policy manager.

The company already collects taxes from its hosts and pays them through existing agreements with Pennsylvania and its cities and counties, Kalloch said.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Doyle Heffley, R-Carbon County, said in a sponsorship memo that current law doesn't ensure all hosts are paying their fair share.

“Some of these ‘hosts' are not aware of their obligation to collect state and county hotel taxes, or are ignoring it,” Heffley said in the memo. “A tax is only fair if all who are required to participate do so.”

The tax for the home stays is the same as the rate for hotels, a six percent statewide levy. Allegheny County adds an additional 1 percent tax.

In Allegheny County, the typical Airbnb host made $5,800 per year renting a room for an average five days per month, according to company data. Kalloch said the company requires all hosts to participate in its tax-compliance program.

Kalloch suggested that if the state wants to require other companies to collect taxes in a similar way Airbnb does, it could look to Rhode Island, which he said passed a law requiring home-stay companies to collect the taxes but didn't require sharing hosts' personal information.

The bill's fiscal note said the change could bring in additional revenues, but didn't include an estimate. Companies that fail to comply could be fined $1,000 per listing.

“This will be a minimal obligation on the part of these companies that will help ensure that conventional hotels and bed and breakfasts are not put at a competitive disadvantage with hosts that do not collect the tax,” Heffley said in the sponsorship memo.

The bill passed the House on a 177 to 14 vote. It has been referred to the Senate Communication and Technology Committee.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, wventeicher@tribweb.com or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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