Tax threat for 200,000 Airbnb homeowners

Online home sharing business Airbnb has told almost 200,000 homeowners their details will be given to the Australian Taxation Office as part of its crackdown on the black economy.

It came after the ATO's black economy taskforce stepped up efforts to make more than 10.8 million Australians working in the online gig economy pay their taxes.

The move was welcomed by Tourism Accommodation Australia chief executive Michael Johnson, who said it would shine a light on a notoriously grey area of the economy.

"This will significantly improve transparency and increase equity between traditional tax-paying accommodation providers and the largely unregulated short-stay accommodation sector," he said.

"This is an important development that will result in greater accountability of online accommodation platforms and short-stay accommodation providers."

Mr Johnson said traditional accommodation providers and taxpayers had missed out because of the unequitable tax arrangements.

"Property owners who have correctly assessed and declared their income tax, GST and other obligations or earnings from these activities, and complied with Australian Tax laws, should have nothing to be concerned about," he said.

 

Airbnb spokesman Brent Thomas at Manly Beach. Picture: Julian Andrews.
Airbnb spokesman Brent Thomas at Manly Beach. Picture: Julian Andrews.

Airbnb wrote to members on Thursday saying that "from time-to-time we may be legally required to share certain information with governmental authorities.

"Airbnb is currently under legal notice by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to share information concerning your hosting activity for the period from 1 January to 30 June 2019," the email from The Airbnb Team said.

It said it was part of an ATO data-matching program "which requires sharing economy rental platforms to share information concerning their users, including, for example: name, address and telephone number."

 

Tourism Accommodation Australia chief executive Michael Johnson has welcomed the tax office focus on Airbnb homeowners. Picture: LinkedIn
Tourism Accommodation Australia chief executive Michael Johnson has welcomed the tax office focus on Airbnb homeowners. Picture: LinkedIn

The ATO program said: "We believe that some people using sharing economy platforms are failing to report their income, either on purpose or because they assume their level of activity constitutes a hobby and doesn't require reporting."

In 2016 the ATO said 2 million taxpayers reported rental income of $42 billion and claimed rental expenses of $45 million.

Airbnb spokesman Brent Thomas said: "Our challenging and difficult-to-navigate tax system can act as a barrier to ordinary Australians using their homes to supplement their income.

"Airbnb is committed to making it as easy as possible for our hosts to pay their taxes, along with making it easier for the ATO to do their job."

He said developing a "light touch, mandatory data sharing framework is critical for everyone in the sharing economy".



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