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Vienna to start taxing income from Airbnb-style rentals

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Vienna to start taxing income from Airbnb-style rentals
View of Vienna State Opera. Photo: Markus Leupold-Löwenthal/Wikimedia
10:53 CEST+02:00
People in Vienna who rent out spare rooms or apartments for short-term stays on sharing economy platforms such as Airbnb or Craigslist must now register with the city - even if they only rent out a room occasionally on a private basis and not as a business.

A recent amendment to the Vienna Tourism Promotion Act means that short-term rental landlords who advertise online are now obliged to provide all the information necessary to establish whether they are liable to pay any tax from the money they make.

Platforms such as Airbnb connect anyone with space to offer, from a spare bedroom to a luxury apartment, with travellers looking for a budget-friendly night’s rest. However, traditional hotel chains see them as rivals and accuse them of helping people avoid taxes.

There are at least 5,000 accommodation listings for Vienna on Airbnb. According to estimates by the city’s financial authority, the taxman stands to pocket around €100,000 if the local accommodation tax, which applies to those who rent out private accommodation to visitors, is collected correctly.

If a property is used commercially - for example if it is one of many operated by the same landlord or if there are employees involved - then a business license must also be obtained.

Local accommodation tax is 3.2 percent of the net cost of accommodation, paid by the guest, and applies to both commercial and private accommodation.

The amendment to the Tourism Promotion Act, passed on September 30th, stipulates that landlords must provide the city with the addresses of all accommodation used by tourists within two weeks - so that authorities can ensure that the tax is paid correctly.

Room rental platforms will also be obliged to provide data identifying providers as well as the addresses of their rented accommodations.

The fine for landlords who fail to pay any tax which is due has been increased to €2,100.

Vienna's Director of Tourism Norbert Kettner said in a statement: “Vienna has now created the basis for transparent competition as well as legal certainty for accommodation providers previously operating in a grey area.

Vienna is committed to the diversification of its tourism offerings, but the same rules must also apply to all market players: the same rules, and the same taxes for all those benefiting from the tourism advertising financed by the local accommodation tax".

Cities like Munich, Berlin and New York also impose a tax on income earned from Airbnb-style rentals. In Paris, Airbnb charges its users a tourist tax after coming under fire from hotel owners in the city. 

In the UK, "micro-entrepreneurs" who use platforms like Airbnb to rent out rooms don’t need to declare or pay tax on the first £1,000 they earn on the platform per year.

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