Proposed Hotel Occupancy Tax on short term rentals

ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Short term rental owners in Louisiana have avoided hotel occupancy taxes, but a proposed bill aims to include short-term vacation rental platforms like Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, and others to pay the same occupancy taxes hotels pay.

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Rob Stephens is an expert on the short-term vacation rental market as the founder and general manager of Avalara MyLodgeTax. It is the tax collection and remittance software used by Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, and many major regional and national vacation rental platform. Rob keeps a close eye on the rapidly evolving landscape of the vacation rental industry and regulations being introduced both on a national and state level.

He has been following these developments in Louisiana closely and says lawmakers are looking to close the loophole and make a level playing field for hosts.

"We don't see these occupancy taxes changing traveler behavior. They're still going to go to Baton Rouge or wherever it is that they want to come," said Stephens.

But some push back is coming from short term rental operators. It is another hurdle in the effort to abide by state law. "It's not necessarily easy to be tax compliant in Louisiana. They'd have to deal with state taxes and the city even potentially parish taxes. So again there are a number of moving parts; it's somewhat complicated and I think that's why hosts are reluctant or express concern about having to follow these types of rules," said Stephens.

But, Convention and Visitors Bureaus across the state welcome the bill, because more taxed properties means more money for tourist commissions.

"Anything that the convention and visitors bureau does is because of the occupancy tax. That revenue is the only way we are funded," said Sherry Smith Ellington, Executive Director and CEO of the Alexandria / Pineville Convention and Visitors Bureau. But it is also a catch 22. "Our job is to market the area to bring visitors into the hotels." And they could do their job more efficiently with more money.

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