QUEENSBURY — Warren County hopes to be collecting occupancy tax from short-term home rentals by Jan. 1, after county supervisors took steps Thursday to change the county’s occupancy tax law to include homes.
The 4 percent room tax has applied to motels, hotels and bed-and-breakfast locations, but not the burgeoning market of private, short-term home rentals, generally defined as 13 days or less.
The largest home rental company, Airbnb, told the county treasurer’s office its rentals in Warren County between July 2016 and July 2017 would have put $88,000 into the county’s occupancy tax receipts.
Airbnb’s listings showed 450 active listings in Warren County as of July 1, 2017, and county leaders have been discussing the issue with Airbnb for nearly two years without an agreement.
Twenty-three counties have changed their bed tax rules to include home rentals, with Fulton and Broome the latest to include rentals in their laws.
Essex County is the only local one to make the change so far. Airbnb charges the property renters the tax, and forwards the money to the appropriate county.
Warren County supervisors this week discussed re-working the county law’s language, with hopes of passing the re-worked law at the Aug. 17 meeting of the full county Board of Supervisors. That would give enough time for the renters to start collecting by the beginning of 2019.
Warren County Treasurer Michael Swan said his office has been working with Airbnb officials to tailor the law as needed. The Warren County Attorney’s Office will also be working with them, he said.
County supervisors discussed how to make sure the law covers all that is needed, and ensures the county reserves its rights to make sure it is getting the collections that are made.
Liz DeBold, a spokeswoman for Airbnb, said her company continues to work with county officials to come to an agreement.
“As is the case in 23 New York counties where we have already reached similar agreements, we hope to make the tax remittance process seamless for these hosts while ensuring that Warren County can benefit from additional tax revenue,” she said in an email.
Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson said the county law also needs to address businesses that rent cottages, which haven’t had to collect occupancy tax.
“We have a lot of people who have three or four cottages, and they don’t fall under the occupancy tax,” Dickinson said.
Swan said Airbnb won’t be the only company targeted, as the myriad others that allow people to advertise their properties for rent will also be contacted. The county law gives Swan’s office the authority to audit for occupancy tax cooperation, and the Treasurer’s Office recently received permission to hire an additional staff member to assist with those audits.
As the private home rental market grows, Lake George and Warrensburg are looking at enacting town laws to require those who rent properties to register with the towns.
Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty said there are 39 properties in Warrensburg offered for rent on Airbnb, and there are no local regulations.
“We don’t do anything and that’s the problem. The neighbors don’t like it,” he said.
Occupancy tax receipts fund the county Tourism Department and provides money for Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls, invasive species control efforts, event promotion and other tourism-related costs.