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Homeshares Not Exempt From Hotel Occupancy Tax

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Allegheny County Treasurer's Office

Summer U.S. Open accommodations in Oakmont will include at least a 7 percent hotel occupancy tax, thanks to an ordinance passed by Allegheny County Council last month that allows online booking agents like Airbnb and Homeaway to collect and transfer the long-sought after fees.

“The statute is very clear," said Mike McCabe, solicitor with the Allegheny County Treasurer’s Office. "Individuals that are renting out rooms within their homes fall within the definition of a hotel under the statute. That’s been in there since the mid-1970s. They’re deemed to be operators under the law.”

Taxes are required for any “apartment-hotel which rents certain apartments or rooms for occupancy on a week-to-week basis, or other periods less than 30 days,” according to Allegheny County regulations. Homeowners listing short-term rentals have 30 days to register their properties.

McCabe said the ordinance is not a new regulation, but a convenience for would-be landlords.

Airbnb and other online booking agents will be responsible for collecting and transferring the 7 percent tax on behalf of homeowners directly to Allegheny County.

The Pope set the precedent, McCabe said.

Philadelphia expanded its own hotel occupancy tax to include online booking agents in advance of the papal visit last May. Likewise, Allegheny County Councilman Ed Kress said he’s heard rumors that the United States Golf Association had been asking homeowners in Oakmont if they are interested in renting out their home during the upcoming U.S. Open.

“If the USGA has been calling people on the phone, do they become a booking agent?” Kress said. 

Officials with the USGA said no one with the organization would make personal calls to area residents and don't involve themselves in guests' travel plans.

McCabe said treasury agents will be investigating non-traditional rental uses. 

“They’ll be going around looking at Craigslist and other sites to see if people are renting their homes,” McCabe said. “Under this new ordinance, there’s an obligation now on behalf of all the Airbnb-type sites to actually turn over information to the county treasurer.”

Revenue collected funds Pittsburgh’s tourism industry, including the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, the Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Sports and Exhibition Authority and the Convention Visitors Bureau of Greater Monroeville.

For homeowners already on the hook, McCabe said they can expect a 5 percent penalty and 1 percent interest charge on past due taxes. 

"If they haven’t paid it, they still owe it," he said.