SF visitors prepare: Airbnb’s occupancy tax kicks in October 1st

The long-awaited Airbnb occupancy tax will be mandatory in San Francisco starting October 1st. It won’t affect Airbnb hosts, but visitors will have to pay 14 percent of the total rental amount to the city if they stay less than 30 days in a rental. This is directly in line with the tax hotels pay, also 14 percent.

In an email and blog post announcing the news, Airbnb told users it would be managing the tax submission for them. That means hosts won’t have to deal with unwieldy paperwork or government bureaucracy. Instead, the tax will be charged to visitors — an extra fee on top of the listing fee — and automatically deducted from the host’s earnings before they receive them. It will appear for guest receipts as a line item labeled “Transient Occupancy Tax.”

The San Francisco Chronicle, based on its own study of Airbnb listings in the city, estimated that the new tax could bring in over $11 million to the local government. The publication pointed out that the biggest noticeable omission in Airbnb’s post announcing the news is whether the organization will pay the back taxes from its years of operation where visitors weren’t charged an occupancy fee.

The tax has been looming on the horizon since April, when Airbnb agreed to meet San Francisco’s demand: that visitors pay up. The apartment sharing company, which early in its history fought any potential occupancy taxes, has since changed its approach. It has integrated the occupancy tax into its Portland, Oregon fare, and it has lobbied New York City to legalize Airbnb and funnel the added tax revenue into pet projects.

As Airbnb has scaled and matured, the company has learned the path to going mainstream requires a little less disruption and a little more cooperation.