Taxes are not likely collected on all nightly rentals in Summit County
March 19, 2018
A conversation during a recent meeting of the Park City Chamber/Bureau led to a discussion among the Summit County Council on Wednesday about whether taxes are being collected on all nightly and short-term rentals in Park City and Summit County.
County Council member Roger Armstrong attended the Chamber/Bureau meeting, sharing the details of the conversation with the Council. Armstrong said the assumption is that Airbnb, a company that operates an online marketplace for short-term vacation rentals, is the only company paying taxes to the Utah Tax Commission.
"It's troubling," he said. "The others are collecting taxes from customers, and then they are not paying those taxes to the state. That doesn't seem fair to the purchaser or the county. We rely heavily on TRT (transient-room tax) monies for a variety of purposes related to tourism. As the market shifts, more of those companies are engaging in this business, and it becomes a far greater share that we are not capturing locally."
TRT funds are collected from overnight stays in locations such as hotels and nightly rentals. The funds are used to promote tourism, recreation and the acquisition of facilities to draw people to the area.
Bill Malone, president and CEO of the Chamber/Bureau, said it's not surprising that some rentals are operating under the radar without paying taxes and the proper licensing. He said it is a phenomenon that has grown as the popularity of nightly and short-term rentals soars.
"I think the tax collection is a part of it, but I think from a Chamber position we are looking at it as reducing the playing field for those that are in compliance," he said. "Others might look at it more from a life or safety standpoint. Beyond that, I guess there are a number of different levels that people and organizations can look at it from."
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Some of these questions and concerns led to the commission of a study to help elected leaders and partners in the tourism industry better understand the impacts the short-term rental market has on the resort area. The County Council received the first half of the report in January. It focused on compliance issues.
The data from the first phase is intended to inform policy and zoning to help regulate the market. The second half of the report will include recommendations for ordinances and policies.
"We are now reaching a point where the nightly rental market is getting people's attention, and that is the reason for the study with the county and the city," Malone said. "When we get the final report and Phase 2 ideas, we will have a discussion about where we go from here and how are able to encourage compliance with the law."
County Council members suggested holding a joint meeting with representatives of the Utah Tax Commission to further explore the issue, including any rights the county has to recoup the uncollected money.
"It is my understanding that the county does not have the ability to take action to recover those monies unless the commission consents to that action," Armstrong said. "It could be potentially more than $1 million that is not being remitted."
Armstrong said the short-term rental market can have a negative impact on the county's affordable housing situation by removing the chances of those properties accommodating workers.
"They wind up being taken out of that rent or lease pool," he said. "If the rental market is shifting over to this nightly-rental market, then they should be generating revenues because if they were staying in hotels they would be paying TRT."