Hoteliers urge federal candidates to tax Airbnb hosts

Hoteliers urge federal candidates to tax Airbnb hosts

Canada's hotel owners are renewing their call for the federal government to tax short-term rental operators such as Airbnb, and this time they want to make it an election issue.

During a news conference Wednesday at the Lord Elgin Hotel in downtown Ottawa, the Hotel Association of Canada launched a campaign calling on all federal candidates in the fall election to support their demand for Airbnb to pay a corporate tax, as well as for Airbnb hosts to charge guests GST or HST.

"If anybody is operating the same type of business as a hotel...then they should be subject to the same rules and regulations that we, as hotels, are subject to," said Alana Baker, the director of government relations for the association.

Airbnb doesn't currently pay corporate taxes in Canada, though hosts in some jurisdictions are required to charge renters either a provincial municipal tax, or in some cases both.

Giacomo Panico/CBC

In Ottawa, Airbnb renters are required to pay a four per cent municipal accommodation tax based on the combined listing price and cleaning fee of the unit, with part of that revenue helping to support the efforts of Ottawa Tourism.

Quebec and B.C. are the only provinces that charge Airbnb renters a provincial tax, with Quebec charging 3.5 per cent of the listing price and B.C. collecting eight per cent of the combined listing price and cleaning fee, plus another two to three per cent in municipal tax.

Hosts whose annual income from rentals exceeds $30,000 are already required to charge and remit HST and GST.

Hotels 'peddling lies,' Airbnb says

Steve Ball, president of the Ottawa-Gatineau Hotel Association, said he's not concerned about asking federal candidates to campaign on a pledge to increase taxes for a service such as Airbnb, which many Canadians enjoy.

"I would not call it an increase in taxes, I would call it a fairness in taxes," Ball said. 

"We want them to pay what everyone else pays. We think that if you're operating as a business in this country, you should be obliged to pay corporate taxes."

In a pointed response to the hotel association's campaign launch, Airbnb spokesperson Alexandra Dagg said hotels are simply trying to eliminate competition.

"The big corporate hotels are at it again, peddling lies about home sharing to protect their ability to price gouge consumers, and preserve antiquated business models," Dagg wrote.

Targeting 'ghost hotels'

Dagg said Airbnb has worked closely with governments across Canada, especially in B.C., to collect and remit tourism taxes. 

Ball said he's not interested in taxing homeowners who occasionally rent their places out while they're away, but on properties known as "ghost hotels," which are used primarily as short-term rental units.

"The issue is around the commercialization," Ball said. "Our industry has never had any problem with someone renting our their principal residence — they're in the home, they've got a little extra capacity and they want to make a little extra money — that's never been an issue."