Junior Minister for Tourism Hon. Sherene Flax-Charles endorses Government’s plan to implement a tax on Airbnb properties.
The announcement of the tax was made by His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert during the Speech from the Throne delivered on November 14.
Airbnb is an online marketplace and homestay network that enables people to list or rent short-term lodging in residential properties, with the cost of such accommodation set by the property owner. However, currently accommodation tax is not collected from such bookings.
While speaking in the House of Assembly on November 14, the Junior Minister for Tourism announced that she is pleased to hear of the plans to implement such a tax, and noted that the time is right for this.
“I am again happy that we will be working on legislation – namely the Airbnb tax legislation which will bring funds into the coffers of Government.”
Hon. Flax-Charles also noted that the Territory has quite a few Airbnb properties operating tax free.
“We do have quite – I believe it is around the 300 range of Aibnb properties here in the British Virgin Islands and as such they should be paying taxes as they are accommodation properties.”
In noting the plan Governor Jaspert said, “Our Government will place special focus on different pieces of tourism legislation to ensure that the Virgin Islands remain on the bleeding edge with Tourism being a strong pillar. Our Government will introduce the AirBnB Tax legislation and Yachting Aid legislation to ensure the development of the local tourism product. Tourism development also means investing in the infrastructure locally and recognising the Film Commission as a vibrant investment center that can boost revenue.”
In May this year Cabinet granted permission for Government to enter into an Agreement with AirBnB for the collection of Hotel Accommodation Tax from properties in the Virgin Islands that use AirBnB to facilitate guest bookings at their properties. Cabinet also decided that the Minister of Finance declare the Inland Revenue Department as a department which may receive and process electronic records relative to the Hotel Accommodation (Taxation) Ordinance (Cap. 205) ("the Act").
Last year Director of the BVI Tourist Board, Mrs. Sharon Flax-Brutus disclosed that a submission was made through the Premier’s Office to the Ministry of Finance to work with popular accommodation booking platform Airbnb to collect revenue for properties booked in the Territory. The Tourist Board Director estimated that the Territory is losing thousands of dollars to Airbnb bookings.
In 2018, the Tourist Board Director told the Standing Finance Committee that there are discussions with Airbnb to share data, work together and finalize an agreement in this regard. The Tourist Board Director stated that based on the information provided there was recorded revenue of approximately 850,000 and if the accommodation tax was collected it would benefit the Territory in the region of $100,000.