Airbnb competitors HomeAway, VRBO and misterb&b reach bed tax agreement in Hillsborough County

The new agreement mirrors the one made between Airbnb and Hillsborough County in 2016 and should bring thousands in tax revenue.
One of the two bedrooms in her three bedroom home that Melissa Mangold rented in her home in 2015.   (WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times
One of the two bedrooms in her three bedroom home that Melissa Mangold rented in her home in 2015. (WILL VRAGOVIC | Times
Published Jan. 11, 2019

Hillsborough County has finally struck a deal with some of Airbnb's leading competitors, making it harder for rival app users to avoid paying are required tourism tax.

Tax Collector Doug Belden said his office has come to an agreement with HomeAway and VRBO, as well as misterb&b, that should bring thousands of dollars in new tax revenue. Pinellas County reached similar agreements with the same companies in September.

"It took me eight months, but I would not give in on anything on the contracts," said Belden.

Belden said he wanted the contracts to contain the same language as the one he established with Airbnb in 2016. That contract took a year to negotiate, but gave Hillsborough County the ability to audit Airbnb. It also made it so the leading room-sharing app wasn't able to circumvent Florida public record laws, according to the tax collector. Belden said the new contracts are the same. He's continuing to try to reach an agreement with TripAdvisor, which has a deal with Pinellas County already.

"I want to know where the money is coming from and be able to check it's the right amount," Belden said.

All the sites work similarly, allowing visitors to rent out homes or apartments on peer-to-peer apps or websites.

Without a tax agreement, people who rent rooms out on the platforms are expected collect a 5 percent bed tax themselves to give to the county. Without the apps doing that on their users' behalf, if often doesn't happen, Belden said.

Belden said he expect HomeAway, VRBO and misterb&b to start collecting the bed tax from its users on Feb. 1.

The bulk of bed tax collection comes from hotel stays and is used to promote tourism.

In 2017, Airbnb remitted $562,000 in bed taxes to Hillsborough, according to spokesman Ben Breit. The new numbers for 2018 won't be finalized until the end of month. But Breit said there's been strong year-over-year growth in the county and expects 2018's sum to be larger.

HomeAway and VRBO, which are under the same company, and misterb&b could not be reached for comment.

Contact Sara DiNatale at Follow @sara_dinatale.