Tax Man Cometh to Airbnb Hosts in VI

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From left: Attorney Tamarah Parson-Smalls, BIR Director Marvin Pickering, Governor Kenneth Mapp, Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty, and Shawn Sullivan and Carlos Muñoz of Airbnb at press conference on St. Thomas on Friday, May 19. Photo courtesy of Bevan Springer.  

ST THOMAS — Virgin Islanders hosting travelers through Airbnb will soon get local help running their businesses. Top government officials announced recently a new agreement with the online travel company, the Department of Tourism and the Internal Revenue Bureau.

Under the terms of the deal Airbnb agrees to collect a 12.5 percent Hotel Room Occupancy Tax at the point of sale and turn it over to the V.I. Bureau of Internal Revenue.

About two thousand Virgin Islands residents have signed onto the service, offering their homes as visitor accommodations. 

Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty and BIR Director Marvin Pickering joined Gov. Kenneth Mapp in announcing the change late last week.

“I think what’s extremely important here today is that we are expanding our accommodations and our tax base and our marketing opportunities,” Doty said.

Pickering said he is looking forward to a “fruitful and productive” relationship with the home sharing travel company.

“We look forward to pursuing this additional avenue of increasing the tax revenue from Airbnb hosts as they participate in our Territory’s tax regime by fulfilling their filing and payment obligations,” Pickering said.

In addition to the processing of room tax obligations, the VI government has also agreed to promote home sharing accommodations to travelers.

One St. John resident already enrolled in the program said she’s glad to hear about the point of sale tax collection. She said she already hands over her room tax payments to BIR voluntarily but knows there are Airbnb hosts who do not.

Home sharing travel arrangements are not new to the Virgin Islands. Wealthy families have derived income in the Virgin Islands by building hundreds of vacation homes and villas and renting them out through management companies.

After the press conference, Doty said some villa owners are already meeting their tax obligations. The government will have to identify other property owners renting high end accommodations privately in order to apply and collect the hotel room tax.