As Tampa Bay tourism grows, Airbnb's tax payments to Florida nearly double year over year

Airbnb paid nearly $90 million in taxes to Florida over 2018. The year before, it collected and remitted about $45 million.
Ginny Cleary rents out a room in her Seminole Heights home to guests booking on Airbnb in this Times file photo 2016.  [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times (2016)]
Ginny Cleary rents out a room in her Seminole Heights home to guests booking on Airbnb in this Times file photo 2016. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times (2016)]
Published January 28

Airbnb collected nearly $90 million in tax dollars from Florida visitors last year, roughly double what the room-sharing and renting platform paid to the Sunshine State and its counties the year before.

One of the main reasons for the spike? How much tourism continues to grow in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties and the state as a whole, said Airbnb spokesman Ben Breit.

"Since hotels are doing great as well, it seems that simply more people are traveling to the region, staying longer and spending more," Breit said in a statement. "That has a direct economic impact for the hosts and homeowner … but then there's a secondary impact — increased tax revenue for the counties, and increased spending for local small businesses and restaurants."

Airbnb reported it sent $2.9 million in tourism taxes to Pinellas County, up from $1.87 million the year before. Hillsborough received $1.1 million — 2018 marked the first full year Airbnb was collecting and remitting taxes there.

Of a total $89.5 million Airbnb paid to Florida, roughly $27 million was bed tax dollars sent to 40 Florida counties that have individual deals with Airbnb to collect bed taxes charged for short-term rentals. The rest was part of a 2015 deal Airbnb has with the Florida Department of Revenue to remit sales taxes on behalf of all of the app's 45,000 Sunshine State rental homes.

The first bed tax agreement Airbnb made was with Pinellas County in 2015. Prior to any agreements, it was up to the host of each home to send the 5 or 6 percent per night tax to their county's tax collector's office. Tax collectors across the state have said that rarely happened, making it easy for users of the app to avoid the overnight tax hotel guests were paying.

While a vast majority of bed taxes collected by counties still comes from hotels, tax collectors have been moving to make deals like it did with Airbnb with the app's leading competitors. The collected money is used primarily to promote the area.

Airbnb also collected more bed tax money this past year because, like in Hillsborough, a few counties agreements only began half-way through 2017 — including Miami-Dade, Broward and Sarasota counties.

Miami-Dade County received the most tourism tax money from Airbnb at $10.3 million followed by Broward at $5.2, Pinellas at $2.9, and Orange at $2.4.

Earlier this month, Airbnb released how much money its Florida hosts made renting out their homes or rooms through the app. Roughly 4.5 million people used Airbnb to visit Florida, making Tampa Bay hosts a collective $113 million.

Florida hasn't released its end-of-year tourism numbers yet. Former Gov. Rick Scott reported a new record in the third quarter at the end of November. Nearly 96 million people visited the state within the first nine months of the year.

Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] Follow @sara_dinatale.

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