Tourism & Cruises

Miami-Dade is owed ‘millions of dollars’ from vacation rental site, new lawsuit says

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Vacation rental website HomeAway owes Miami-Dade millions of dollars in taxes, the county is alleging in a lawsuit filed last week.

The Miami-Dade County Attorney’s office is asking a judge to force HomeAway to collect a 6 percent tourism tax from hosts on its site and send the money to the county, the same way hotels do. The tax goes toward the county’s tourism board, department of cultural affairs, sports facilities and the city of Miami.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties signed deals with the nation’s largest short-term rental site, Airbnb, to pay the 6 percent tax in April 2017. Airbnb has entered into agreements with 40 of Florida’s 63 counties that require a tourism tax. Airbnb reported that it paid $8.4 million to Miami-Dade and $3.7 million to Broward in the first year, high above what the company initially estimated.

“Our first check came in and blew us all away,” Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman said in June. “It was like, boy I can’t wait to see what happens with the rest. We have been waiting.”

HomeAway signed similar deals to pay the tourism tax to Broward County in December 2017 and to Orange County and Pinellas County in October. Miami-Dade has been trying unsuccessfully to get HomeAway to sign an agreement to pay its tax since April 2017.

“It’s been over a year since we passed the ordinance for the companies to pay taxes,” Heyman said. “Since that time HomeAway has never complied. It is a large sum of money.”

Currently HomeAway advises its hosts that they are responsible for paying the Miami-Dade tax, in contrast to AirBnb which collects the tax from its hosts and pays the county for them. Miami-Dade’s lawsuit asks the court to force HomeAway to divulge the names of its hosts so that it can go after them for the money if the company refuses an Airbnb-style deal. So far HomeAway has not complied with the county’s request for that information, the complaint said.

HomeAway is a vacation rental website owned by Expedia, currently featuring hundreds of Miami rentals on its site. HomeAway also operates rental website VRBO.com. Expedia’s director of policy communications, Phillip Minardi, declined to comment.

The Miami-Dade County Attorney’s office and Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, chairwoman of the Economic Development and Tourism Committee, declined to comment because the lawsuit is pending.

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