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Surfside is the first South Florida town to collect taxes from Airbnb

Airbnb chief marketing officer Jonathan Mildenhall speaks in Los Angeles on Nov. 18.
Airbnb chief marketing officer Jonathan Mildenhall speaks in Los Angeles on Nov. 18. Getty Images for Airbnb

As part of a 2017 goal to secure tax agreements across the state of Florida, home-sharing platform Airbnb has signed its first accord in South Florida.

Airbnb announced Monday that it has reached an agreement with the town of Surfside to collect the municipality’s 4 percent resort tax from local hosts and remit that money back to the town. The resort tax would go back into stimulating the family-friendly beach town’s local tourist economy.

The new tax agreement is effective March 1. Surfside, which is one of three municipalities in Miami-Dade with its own resort tax, passed the motion via a unanimous vote on Jan. 10.

In 2016, Surfside welcomed 2,000 guests via Airbnb, with hosts who rented their homes or a room in their homes earning an average of $5,700, according to Airbnb data.

This is the very first deal of its kind in Miami-Dade County and it demonstrates what can be achieved when forward-thinking local governments and sharing economy platforms like Airbnb come to the table to seek mutually-beneficial agreements.

Tom Martinelli, Airbnb’s Florida policy director

Since 2011, hosts whose primary income is through renting and whose property has a history of offering short-term rentals have been eligible to legally rent their properties in Surfside. Eligible hosts must register their transient dwellings — which can be single-, two-, or multi-family homes or townhouses — with Surfside for each rental period their unit is rented.

Hosts are limited to three rental periods every 12 months.

“This is the very first deal of its kind in Miami-Dade County and it demonstrates what can be achieved when forward-thinking local governments and sharing economy platforms like Airbnb come to the table to seek mutually beneficial agreements,” Tom Martinelli, Airbnb’s Florida policy director, said in a statement.

Reaching a tax agreement is central for the platform, which has come under fire from hotel groups in the past for not adhering to the same requirements hotels must follow as transient rentals.

The Surfside agreement — the first for Airbnb south of Lee County — signals a shift in opinion toward incorporating the sharing economy in South Florida’s robust tourism industry, where the platform is popular among tourists. Miami-Dade is Airbnb’s fourth-largest market in the country.

Miami-Dade is on the cusp signing a tax agreement with the site, too, Michael Hernández, County Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s communications chief, said late last month. The county remits a 6 percent countywide tourist tax.

2,000 Number of Airbnb guests in Surfside in 2016

But that would be at odds with Miami Beach, one of the two other Dade municipalities that collects its own resort tax (Bal Harbour Village is the third). The Beach has been aggressively policing illegal short-term rentals with hefty $20,000 fines. The city, which has said it has no intention of reaching any kind of agreement with Airbnb, fined residents a combined $4 million between March, when it increased its fines, and late November.

The city cites the platform’s potential to encroach on Beach residents’ quality of life — Airbnb has been criticized for attracting parties and creating security issues in neighborhoods across the country — as its central motivator against a compromise with Airbnb.

But Miami Beach is an outlier in a state that is increasingly moving toward tax agreements with the platform. In the past month, Airbnb has finalized deals with Hillsborough, Okaloosa and Hardee counties, increasing the number of counties it does business with to 35 in Florida.

Across Airbnb-friendly cities in Florida, the site collected $20 million in state and local taxes in 2016.

Chabeli Herrera: 305-376-3730, @ChabeliH

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