Airbnb plans fight against decision to tax homeowners
Angry Airbnb hosts have vented their frustration with the website's management after the company said it intends to hand over homeowners' details to the Revenue Commissioners.
The company said it will challenge a Revenue clarification stating that homeowners letting out rooms on the website on a short-term basis are not eligible to earn up to €12,000 tax-free under the rent-a-room scheme.
Airbnb has failed to rule out taking court action against Revenue's decision.
However, it has also stated that all earnings people make through the site must be classed as taxable income for Revenue purposes.
The website is used for the short-term letting of rooms or houses by tourists.
Airbnb's head of global consumer experience, Aisling Hassell, said the company was required to report users' incomes through the site to Revenue next month.
This means that homeowners using the site to supplement their incomes will have until October to get their finances in order.
"We will be actively working with our community to see how we can work on their behalf with the Revenue and the Government before the next budget," said Ms Hassell.
"It is challengeable in court but we will have to see what the next steps are. Our host income has always been taxable income and we have always made that very clear to our hosts, that is not new.
"What is new is our reporting requirement and we have been seeking clarification from Revenue for the past couple of months."
The company met with 200 service users last night in an attempt to allay concerns. However, many left the meeting angry.
One man had travelled from Cork but was told he could not enter because he had not responded to an invitation on time. He was told he could attend the next meeting, which has yet to be organised.
"I have a mortgage of more than €300,000 but lost my job last year, so have been using my house to earn some extra money to pay the bank," he said.
"My social welfare is under threat now too as my Airbnb money is considered taxable income and apparently it does not count under the rent-a-room scheme."
Others attending the meeting said they were concerned that the company was sharing their personal information without seeking their permission first.
Some claimed they had been hung out to dry by Airbnb.
Tourism Minister Paschal Donohoe has insisted that homeowners using the online booking site must provide "absolute clarity" on how much income they earn from renting rooms to tourists.
"It is important because there needs to be a level playing field between the type of accommodation Airbnb provide versus other forms of accommodation that are available to tourists coming to our country," he said.
"I believe companies like Airbnb are going to be an even bigger part of how Ireland gets more tourists into our country but also provides new forms of accommodation for certain kind of independent travellers."