Airbnb agrees to collect bed taxes for Madera County

Sierra Star

The Madera County Board of Supervisors approved an arrangement with Airbnb Aug. 8 that will allow the online vacation rental company to collect Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) from homeowners the company works with in the county.

“This agreement will allow Airbnb to add our TOT percentage amount to any of the rentals that have been placed with them by the property owner for renting on their behalf,” said county Treasurer - Tax Collector Tracy Kennedy-Desmond. “We don’t know exactly how many properties that may include, but we are hopeful that even if it is just a few over and above what we already have in our data base, that it will be a start for some additional revenue for the county.”

Kennedy-Desmond told the supervisors that her focus is on contacting the property owners that are allowing the short term rental of their home, cabin or a single room, to advise them how to comply with county ordinances as they relate to business licenses and becoming a TOT operator.

“Any homeowners that are using a different advertising or rental platform, such as VRBO, or Homeaway, or any other advertising venue, must charge, collect and report to us those rental amounts directly to this office in their quarterly returns,” Kennedy-Desmond said.

Kennedy-Desmond’s office sent out about 120 letters a couple months ago to homeowners in the unincorporated portions of the county, mostly in Eastern Madera County, advising them they were not in compliance using their home as a short term vacation rental without a county business license and collecting TOT. Those property owners were located after a search on Airbnb.

“We have had very good responses from the homeowners that we sent requests for compliance letters to over the last couple months,” Kennedy-Desmond said. “Many contacted our office stating they were already represented by a property manager and we already had them in our system.”

Kennedy-Desmond said that most of the ones that were not already in the county system have contacted her office, started the business license process with the planning department and are signing up as Transient Occupancy Tax Operators.

“Right now we have fewer than 10 that have not responded and we have turned them over to Code Enforcement for further action,” Kennedy-Desmond said. “ For those that are responding and going through the compliance process, we are able to track their process in order to add those parcels to our data base and ensure that the homeowners are properly collecting and reporting their revenues on a quarterly basis.”

Although Bass Lake has had short term vacation rentals for many years, managed by real estate offices and paying TOT, the advent of online booking companies such as Airbnb, VRBO and Homeaway, has made it much easier for individuals anywhere in the county to advertise their homes to vacationers.

The county, realizing revenue was being lost by individuals renting their homes, but not collecting TOT, has made the effort to rectify that situation.