Airbnb wants to be taxed in Mass.

Home-sharing app runs ad supporting levy on short-term rentals


WITH THE PRESIDENTIAL campaign in the rear-view mirror and the airwaves now free of political ads, Airbnb is taking advantage of the void to press its own campaign to get Massachusetts to regulate and tax its short-term rental industry.

The San Francisco-based company last week launched a new TV ad in the Boston market, and the ad makes clear Airbnb’s desire to collect and pay hotel, tourist and occupancy taxes at the state and local levels.

“Here at Airbnb, we’re committed to working with the commonwealth to develop new common-sense home sharing rules,” the narrator of the Airbnb ad says. “We’re working with policymakers to ensure our community can pay their fair share of taxes and we support rules that protect affordable housing and maintain our neighborhoods.”

The company’s stance, along with an unrelated effort on Beacon Hill to put higher taxes on legal marijuana, could leave Gov. Charlie Baker, who opposes new or higher taxes, with some difficult decisions in the coming months.

The latest ad is at least the second in an Airbnb charm offensive aimed at getting out in front of an issue that has caused friction between short-term rental services like Airbnb and VRBO, and the traditional hotel industry.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo told reporters last month that he’s asked Boston Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, who filed legislation concerning the short-term rental market last year, to draft a summary of the “major issues” associated with the industry, a signal that the issue will likely be the focus of legislative attention next year.

Representatives from Airbnb have been meeting with leaders from both branches of the Legislature and other lawmakers as they gear up for formal sessions to resume in January. Records filed with the secretary of state’s office show Airbnb has retained Boston law firm Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP to lobby policymakers on its behalf.

“It’s important to get out in front of folks, saying who you are, listen to what their questions or concerns are and let them know that you want to be a good actor and a fair actor in trying to come up with a solution that’s a win-win,” William Burns, a former member of the Illinois House and Chicago City Council who now serves as senior public policy adviser to Airbnb, told the News Service last month.

There are 10,700 hosts renting, on average, 38 nights per year in Massachusetts, according to Airbnb data gathered this summer. Just over 2,000 of those hosts are in Boston, with a rental average of 46 nights per year in the city.

Airbnb said Boston could have collected $3 million in hotel, tourist and occupancy taxes from Airbnb rentals in 2015.

And as of January, the company said it had worked with more than 20 cities around the world to collect and remit hotel, occupancy, and tourist taxes on behalf of its hosts and guests.

Airbnb said a poll of 500 likely voters in Boston conducted this summer by David Binder Research found that 60 percent of respondents think that Airbnb is “very good” for the city and that 75 percent of respondents support allowing residents to rent out their home through Airbnb. The poll also showed that 54 percent of Boston voters have a favorable impression of the company, while 15 percent said they have an unfavorable view of Airbnb.

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“When voters are introduced to information about how Airbnb hosts in Boston use the money they make on the platform, they become even more convinced that Airbnb is good for the city, its residents, and its rise as a world-class city,” the company’s Boston policy team wrote in a memo last week.

Antonio Caban contributed to this report.