Airbnb remits more than $14 million in PST to the B.C. government
Airbnb has handed over more than $14 million in PST to the B.C. government in the first six months of tax remittance.
On top of that the short term vacation rental company has handed over around $4 million in Municipal and Regional District Tax.
“We always do a bit of an estimate before we get into a tax agreement like we did in B.C. Our estimate was that we would collect about $16 million in PST for the first 12 months,” Airbnb’s head of public policy in Canada Alex Dagg said.
“Our platform is popular, it is growing, people are continuing to use our platform as a way to visit Vancouver. It’s a combination between Airbnb being popular and B.C. being popular.”
The tax numbers, provided exclusively to Global News, are from October 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019. The PST goes into provincial coffers designated for affordable housing funding.
The Municipal tax goes to each municipality, with $1.4 million going to Vancouver and $350,000 going to Victoria. The money is for tourism promotion funding.
“We are now coming into the summer season and that number should continue to grow,” Dagg said.
British Columbia is the only jurisdiction in Canada collecting the provincial sales tax from vacation rental companies. Airbnb is the only company that has signed a deal with B.C. The tax works out to about 11 per cent on the rental that wasn’t there before the deal.
WATCH (February 7, 2018): Airbnb announce they will collect provincial tax for B.C.
“We are the only province in fact that collects PST from vacation rental companies because they have their offices outside of B.C. so they try to avoid paying taxes that way,” said Finance Minister Carole James.
“We are pleased to see that Airbnb came to the table and we are continuing the conversation that other companies come to the table and pay their fair share.”
Those other companies includes VRBO and booking.com. Airbnb would like to see other companies pay up in the same way because it “makes it more fair.”
WATCH (aired April 11, 2018): City of Vancouver announces ban on Airbnb in secondary homes
A recent study from McGill University found that 30,000 units in Canada are no longer being rented long term because of companies like Airbnb. Dagg was quick to point out the flaws in the study, including the authors inability to know whether an accommodation would actually be put on the rental market.
“The assumptions that go into those studies are tremendously flawed. We would take total up-bridge to that number. There is no way he could say that with any credibility,” Dagg said.
According to Airbnb there have been 6,000 listings as of June 1, 2019. Airbnb says it removed around 2,500 listings that did not have a license number posted on their listing as a result of our agreement with Vancouver on Aug. 31, 2018.
The company is also praising the provincial government’s approach to housing.
“British Columbia and Vancouver are really getting it right,” Dagg said.
“They have put guard rails around the online activity. They are getting funds to contribute to affordable housing.”
Vancouver city Coun. Pete Fry says his council is waiting back to hear back from staff in September to see how “the Airbnb thing is going.”
Fry also is calling for short term vacation rentals to be given commercial designation.
“That could bring substantial revenues to the city of Vancouver to fund things like sidewalks, parks and child care and maybe even affordable housing,” Fry said.
The commercial designation, which would come with greater taxes to the municipality, is not something Airbnb agrees with.
“We think it’s really important to treat this activity as residential. Bed and breakfasts that have been around for generations are treated as residential,” Dagg said.
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