Time for state to catch up on Airbnb tax

Massachusetts is leaving money on the table

STARTING NOVEMBER 1, New Hampshire became the fifth and latest New England state to allow Airbnb to collect taxes on behalf of its community of hosts and guests, and remit that revenue to the state.

The Granite State will join Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont – as well as more than 300 other jurisdictions across the globe – in partnering with the home sharing and hospitality company on a tax agreement. Collectively, these agreements have generated more than $250 million in tax revenue for governments to use towards infrastructure improvements, programs to end homelessness, and other social services. While policy officials across Massachusetts have touted the millions in tax revenue the Commonwealth would gain from residents who share their homes with traveling families, college interns, visiting professors, and Martha’s Vineyard fans, the state is in danger of letting another year pass without taking action to secure this financial boost.

At Airbnb, we’re working hard to ensure that every Bay Stater – from local hosts and family travelers to small business owners and the community writ large – can benefit from this economic opportunity. Earlier this year, Senate Majority Whip Michael Rodrigues introduced legislation that would create a smart policy framework for home sharing across the state, and give Airbnb the ability to collect and remit taxes directly to the Commonwealth.

Sen. Eric Lesser has also been a great thought leader on how the state can partner with platforms like Airbnb to deliver wide-reaching economic benefits and reach sound community goals. Passage of the Senate’s proposal will be a another positive step forward in the Commonwealth’s leadership in the innovation economy and ensure that short term rentals can continue to support family budgets, small businesses, and core public needs across the Commonwealth’s 351 cities and towns.

It’s not often that a global company implores lawmakers for an opportunity to pay taxes and to work together on smart regulations. But Airbnb has never been shy about its desire to do so. Home sharing has a proud and historic legacy in Massachusetts, and we want to see its economic benefits stretch into the public coffers – enhancing state and local resources like education and transportation.

In 1716, David How of Sudbury opened the doors of his family home to weary travelers along the old Boston Post Road. First known as How’s Tavern, this “house of entertainment” soon became a popular resting stop for generations of Americans who sought out the comforts of home while on the road. Today, over 300 years after the founding of How’s Tavern, home sharing is thriving in every corner of the Commonwealth, including on online platforms such as Airbnb.

Given this history, it comes as little surprise that an April 2017 survey from The MassINC Polling Group found that 80 percent of Massachusetts voters support allowing residents to rent their homes through  Airbnb, with large majorities recognizing how home sharing helps residents earn extra money (77 percent) and gives Massachusetts travelers affordable options (74 percent).

In addition to securing tax agreements, Airbnb has worked closely with numerous jurisdictions to develop smart home sharing rules that address the concerns of lawmakers, residents, and communities. After all, while home sharing has been a New England tradition for generations, the growth of the industry through platforms like Airbnb presents new challenges for local lawmakers who want to embrace this new economic opportunity, while protecting affordable housing and preserving public safety.

Airbnb knows there is not a one-size-fits-all home sharing policy that works for all communities. Boston, Cambridge, Cape Cod, Springfield, and Worcester are all unique in their residents, culture and needs, but progress is within reach.

Our efforts to enact reasonable home sharing regulation in cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth are motivated by Airbnb’s incredible host community – a diverse group of residents who are generating economic activity in their neighborhoods and acting as ambassadors for the Bay State to guests from all over the world. Our hosts – from the retired couple renting an extra room in their house to the businessman who frequently travels and lists his home when he is away – are an essential part of the authentic and long-lasting connections Airbnb creates. The vast majority of these hosts – 59 percent of whom are women and 40 percent of whom are over the age of 50 – are individuals and families who share their homes occasionally to help pay for their mortgage, medical bills, student loans, or save for retirement. Most have used the funds they earn – $7,500 per year for the typical host – to gain economic security in order to keep their homes.

In addition to creating millions of dollars in host income, Airbnb generated more than $300 million in sales to small business owners throughout the state by welcoming 590,000 travelers to the Commonwealth in 2016.

In 1863, Henry David Thoreau channeled his own experience at How’s Tavern to capture the timeless and essential human connection of home sharing:

 “Around the fireside at their ease/There sat a group of friends, entranced/With the delicious melodies/Who from the far-off noisy town/Had to the wayside inn come down,/To rest beneath its old oak-trees…/And, though of different lands and speech,/Each had his tale to tell.”

Meet the Author

William Burns

Public Policy Director, Airbnb
Airbnb is proud to be part of this historic Commonwealth tradition – connecting residents with travelers from different cultures – and we look forward to working with legislators on Beacon Hill and throughout the Bay State to ensure that home sharing continues to thrive, from the Boston Post Road and beyond.

William Burns is public policy director at Airbnb.