Airbnb Can’t Stay up to Date on Tax Laws

Recently I was contacted by the County of Marin, stating that I owed $2,400 due to Airbnb paying the wrong amount of Transient Occupancy taxes. I was notified by the county after one year, so the mistake was very expensive.

I contacted Airbnb approximately three weeks ago, and I still have not heard back. I have called numerous times. They promise to call back within 24-48 hours but they never do. I spoke with a supervisor who said he would call back within 24 hours, but no success.

I keep getting reservations, and they still are still charging the wrong amount. I have asked at “a minimum” to please change it to the correct amount, which they have verified to be accurate on their end, and they tell me someone from “the appropriate department” will contact me. This never happens.

This is only one example of the horrible customer service received by hosts. I recommend that everyone boycott Airbnb, and go to VRBO. That is the only way this monopoly will learn how to treat their customers with respect. Absolutely horrible customer service.

No Hell until you’ve Dealt with Airbnb Customer Service

You have not been to hell until you’ve dealt with Airbnb customer service. My ongoing nightmare began on November 18th, 2019. It was a dark and stormy night. In a brick brownstone in Portsmouth, I started my fight with Airbnb over the new Massachusetts short-term rental law.

Under the new law there are a few exemptions, one being about bed ‘n breakfast and timeshares. Bonus, right? Well, what I thought would be easy became very stressful in nature. I contacted their wonderful support team, mentioning that I am tax exempt under the short-term rental law and asking them to please make all of my timeshare listings a zero exemption.

Thinking the elves in the Airbnb workshop would work some magic on my behalf, I waited patiently for a response. Airbnb sent an email stating every rental owner is required to sign up. The next morning I called the government to verify, that I am indeed, tax exempt. “Yes, you’re tax exempt and just a heads up – we had many meetings with Airbnb and they’re required to have a drop down menu for tax exemptions on the site.”

Great news. I called Airbnb back to see what the customer service elves could do. The next email I got from Airbnb stated this was a voluntary law and you will see below, the actual response from the Regulations Department at Airbnb.

I work on a specialized team here at Airbnb. Thanks for reaching out about our collection and remittance of local transient taxes in Massachusetts. I understand you would like your listing to be exempt from taxes during reservations on our platform, because it is a timeshare.

As you are aware, Airbnb entered into a voluntary collection agreement with the local tax collector. We will be filing one tax return per jurisdiction, with the total combined reservation revenue. This means that all hosts located in your area will be represented by one remitted amount, and we will not be providing your personal information on the return. Regrettably, hosts at this time are unable to opt-out of automatic tax collection (collection & remittance feature).

For more information, please review our Help Center article. Your local tax office can share more information about the Voluntary Collection Agreement with Airbnb and how this process may affect your tax reporting and/or collection. For example, some areas request that hosts fill out worksheets indicating the amount that has been paid on their behalf. If you have additional questions regarding policies in your area, we recommend reaching out to a local tax professional or your local tax authority.

In short, I will say, to this day, I continue to fight for myself and the others out there who are suffering from Airbnb Hell.

Airbnb Still Doesn’t Understand Local Tax

I collect hotel occupancy tax for the City of Galveston, Texas. We have a state tax rate of 6% and a local rate of 9% for a total of 15%. Without notice, in May of 2017, Airbnb began collecting and remitting only the state tax (6%). Additionally, Airbnb did not give owners a way to collect the local tax as part of the guest’s transaction. Owners would contact the guests and explain they would be charged an additional 9% upon arrival. Not only did the Airbnb reps lie to owners that Airbnb was collecting and remitting all taxes, but their reps lied to guests that there was no local tax to be paid. VRBO did the same thing in April 2019. We need to make this nightmare go away.

Airbnb Illegally Charges Taxes in Some Areas

I was notified by Airbnb that they would begin collecting GST (goods and services tax) on my behalf, charging my customers when they booked. They also stated the taxes I owed from their rentals would be paid quarterly. The trouble is, I live in an unincorporated, remote area, where I am not required to have a business licence, and according to the tax laws, for my particular rental, do not require me to pay taxes based on the rental property tax requirements.

I contacted Airbnb about this and they said they were basing their tax collections on a province-wide average, which includes several major cities, all that do have to pay the taxes they are saving, to pay on the hosts’ behalf. In essence, Airbnb was charging taxes to my customers, and pocketing it for themselves, in an account, probably worth millions, for three months, (earning interest, no doubt), and then using it to pay others’ taxes, that my customers would not have to pay if Airbnb had not started this procedure.

I did try to resolve this with Airbnb and was never allowed to speak to an actual person, just prefab replies. I cancelled my account with them. Beware. People cannot book your home without paying the taxes Airbnb charges, even if they are not owed.

Airbnb Giving False Tax Advice to Hosts

The matter first began when Airbnb froze payment on my account. I opened a simple ticket to inquire why. First Airbnb said I had to fill out a US tax account form. This was false, as I am in Canada. I spent time and money trying to resolve the matter based on this false tax advice.

Next Airbnb said I needed to become a business and provide my business details. Again, I investigated; this was also false.

Lastly it was a simple matter unrelated to what Airbnb support told me. I then asked to escalate this horrible matter when I was given blatantly false information and to be given a chance to provide feedback on the specific conversation. After wasting my time telling me they’re working on it behind the scenes but can’t talk to me about my own ticket, they had the audacity to tell me I was making a bigger deal out of it than it really is.

Because of how poorly this has been handled I feel very unsafe hosting on Airbnb. Moreover, I have not received any confirmation from Airbnb on what they did wrong. They are sending me cookie cutter generic responses that don’t relate to my issue.

I have an outstanding case with Airbnb. They refuse to give me a ticket number so I can reference our conversation. They have been most unprofessional and unhelpful and keep trying to close the ticket without resolving anything.

Host misrepresented himself and Airbnb didn’t give me a full refund

I’m a long time user of Airbnb and have had no problems using them up until now. This last instance has totally soured me on the experience. The lack of help and support that I have received from their customer service makes me never want to use them again.

I was travelling to Montreal for Canada Day weekend and had booked a two-bedroom apartment for $700. While driving from Toronto to Montreal, we received a call from our host indicating that she couldn’t host us anymore due to flooding. I then went back and forth with customer service on the phone trying to find a suitable alternative. I had to find a similar place at the last minute on a high demand weekend and the $350 credit they gave me didn’t cover the extra cost at all.

I finally thought I had found a suitable location based on the recommendation from Airbnb’s customer service. It was $1500, which was a lot more than what I had wanted to pay, but it met all the requirements. About five minutes after booking I received a call from the new host. He then told me that if I wanted to stay at his place I would have to pay an extra 15% in cash on top of what I booked because of Montreal property taxes. This is not true at all; I stay in Montreal all the time and no one has ever charged me this.

The place I wanted to book was not available since it was new and the host said he had an alternative place at which I could stay. There was no way I was going to give this guy an extra 15% payment for a place that I knew nothing about. I called Airbnb customer service to cancel this booking because this did not seem right at all. I was in the process of cancelling this booking with an agent but the phone connection cut and it wasn’t finished.

I had to book a new location quickly because I was almost in Montreal and I still didn’t have a place to stay. I proceeded to book a new Airbnb for the weekend. Based on my original conversation with customer service I thought I was going to be able to cancel that Airbnb with the individual that was misrepresenting himself, but I found out that he had a very strict cancellation policy and after talking to customer service Airbnb would only give me a partial refund of $514.

I was literally booked with this guy for an hour and I would have stayed there had he not tried to hit me up for an additional 15% and had it been at the actual place he was advertising. The next day I argued this point with customer service but apparently it’s totally okay for their hosts to do this and that they would see what they could do. I’ve tried contacting Airbnb since then but they keep on telling me that the case manager is the one I need to speak with and that I have to wait for her to call me back. I never receive a return call probably because they just want me to get fed up and pay.

Airbnb Benefits Greatly from Exchange Rates

We are Canadian citizens with a timeshare in the United states. We listed the unit on April 18th in US dollars yet when we were paid, we were paid a 1 to 1 ratio, Canadian to US dollars. At that time the exchange rate was about $.77 to $1.00. That meant Airbnb kept approximately $0.20/dollar collected from our renters. I do not know if this is standard practice for other countries with a different currency value than the US, but I believe this is an unethical practice. I now know why Airbnb refused to deposit our funds into our US account in our Canadian institution. I would appreciate any suggestions about how to avoid this from occurring again. Yes, I have contacted Airbnb directly with no response. They also withheld taxes even though all the required tax forms were submitted prior to the rental.

Boyfriend and I Wanted a Unique Airbnb Getaway

My boyfriend and I wanted a unique vacation. We found a small place a couple of hours away that offered “glamping”. We figured it would be a fun experience. The strange thing is this boutique glamping hotel exclusively uses Airbnb as its booking platform. I wasn’t excited about that but figured I’d sign up and give it a shot.

It’s been nothing short of a hassle. First of all, signing up is pretty invasive. It asks for you to upload a picture of your ID or to give your social security number in lieu of that inconvenience. I don’t know about you, but no one is getting my social security number. I reluctantly uploaded a picture ID.

Secondly, have you read the terms and conditions? They are already assuming you are a dirty, messed up person and they are already thinking of ways to kick you off the property and keep your money if you have to cancel.

Apparently someone signed up for the same nights as me right around the same moment I made the reservation. Instead of contacting me, they just let the 24-hour period run. I got an email saying the host had not responded to my request and so I should simply pick another place. Another place? This place was the only reason I was on Airbnb in the first place. Why isn’t there an option for picking another weekend? Maybe it is because Airbnb really shouldn’t be used as the booking platform for a hotel. I had to go back through the system again and pick another weekend.

My second request was accepted pretty early and my card was charged at the same moment. That is fine. What’s not really fine are the hidden costs. The ad for the place reports you will pay $X per night, a $75 cleaning fee, and a $250 deposit. I thought the deposit seemed hefty, but I budgeted for it to be held. It turned out there were additional charges. On top of the things advertised above, they also charged me $56 just for using Airbnb (hefty – I’ll pay for the service but $56 seems like they’re gouging me). There was also a $27 occupancy tax, which I expected. All fine and done.

I received another email saying my host had requested even more money. $61 more was needed to cover taxes (6% county, 7% state of Texas). Taxes are taxes but I could not figure out how they arrived at $61. I calculated $50 and some change. I didn’t find the $11 worth asking or arguing over, so I sent the additional money while wondering how Airbnb could possibly be cheaper or better than a hotel. They’re currently sitting on $856 of my money (if you count the $250 deposit being held in suspense) for two days in a fancy yurt in middle of nowhere Texas, where you make your own meals, etc.

Is this an Airbnb scam? I start doing more research to see if others found it to be a little too expensive. Apparently Airbnb is being used to scam money out of people and seemingly not doing enough to stop it or help. I wish my $56 would go toward designing a more secure platform.

One week before we were supposed to check in, I received a call from the “host” (he claims). He was very nice but I was immediately suspicious. He went into a long, rambling, nearly incoherent story about how the property just switched owners and as a result, I booked under the wrong owner. He said (I think) that Airbnb wanted me to rebook with the right owner. He said it should be easy. He confirmed my email address and said I would receive an email asking me to “reapply the funds to [his] account”. I told him I would await the email.

It’s been three days and I haven’t received an email. I’m supposed to check-in in four days. I hope all goes well. I am already preparing myself to be kicked off the property or not booked due to a misunderstanding. I will probably pass on any hotels that use Airbnb as their booking platform exclusively from now on. I just feel it’s a bad business model. Why let another non-affiliated company have a say and a share in your business?

Update 6.12.2017:

I never got the email from Airbnb that the host said I would receive. I called Airbnb yesterday morning to ask about it.  They had no idea what I was talking about and put me on hold for 10-15 minutes. They then said they would look into it and contact me. I got an email this morning saying that my reservation had been canceled and that I had been given a voucher for what I paid with the option to reapply the funds to the same or similar place (like the host said I would).  I started going through the steps and realized the voucher does not cover the $88 in tax that I already paid. Airbnb wants for me to repay the $88 in taxes in order to complete this process. In addition, Airbnb is actually requesting that I reach out to the host to work this out… encouraging me to reach out to the host to discuss bookings even after all these scams they’ve been having?

It sounds like Airbnb and the host screwed something up and I am the one being inconvenienced.  I sent an email to the Airbnb team explaining how inefficient and frustrating this has been and this will be my first and last Airbnb stay.  Also, I asked the host to reach out to Airbnb if there is anything else he needs.

Airbnb is Collecting my Taxes and Not Paying Them

I was surprised to see a letter from The Department of Revenue of Pennsylvania only to open it and find out Airbnb has not paid the occupancy taxes. However, they have been collecting the money from my guests for over 16 months. They state of Pennsylvania is looking for the last five quarters of taxes from me now. I called to discuss the matter with them because the website is a nightmare and impossible to navigate. I have now called five different times on different days and have been stuck on hold every time for a minimum of 25 minutes and maximum of 50 minutes before I give up or have to end the call. To say I’m frustrated is an understatement. I have nowhere to turn… except to stay on hold to pray someone answers. You would think if they make these payments you would be copied in on the paperwork in some form or fashion. At bare minimum, on your account page there should be a way to search for these payments or have their records available to you. If anyone can point me in the right direction or would like to share a similar story please feel free to do so.

Tax Season: Airbnb Team Lies About Paperwork

On January 10th, 2017 I contacted Airbnb customer service. I am in the process of filing my taxes and found that my 1099-K for 2014 was missing. I do have the 1099-K for 2015. I have logged eight hours talking on the phone with customer service representatives and have been referred to their “Tax Team” who haven’t yet responded. Each time I call I get a different explanation as to why in 2014 they withheld 28% of my payouts and why I may not have received a 1099 for that year. My request to the Tax Team has been made urgent and yet forty days later I have not heard from anyone. This raises the question for me whether the 28% they withheld went into their own pockets, what kind of organization they run that they can get away with not responding for over forty days, and why is there no other recourse? Do I need to contact a lawyer? We are talking about $4000 that they withheld and told me but won’t provide documentation that they may or may not have paid it to the IRS.