Airbnb starts charging users tourist tax in Paris

Holiday rental site Airbnb will from Thursday start charging users in Paris a tourist tax as it bids to keep the French government off its back. The levy could raise millions of euros for Paris.

Airbnb starts charging users tourist tax in Paris
Airbnb are now charging tourist tax on users in Paris. Photo: Beggs/flickr

Airbnb users will have to pay slightly more to rent an apartment in the French capital from now on as the holiday rental site enforces a new tax on customers.

From Thursday onwards Airbnb will charge users 83 centimes a night tourist tax – known as taxe de sejour – which will be handed over to the local authority. Even though it is not obliged to under law.

While the amount may appear insignificant it is expected to pull in €5 million a year for the French capital's coffers.

The charging of the tax – which tourists should have to pay every time they spend a night in paid accommodation in France –  is also seen as a move by Airbnb to keep the French taxman happy and respond to some of the complaints by the hotel industry.

They have accused Airbnb of providing unfair competition.

“We are proud to launch this simple and effective tax scheme in our number one destination in the world,” said Nicolas Ferrary, director of France Airbnb.

“By working closely with the government to simplify the payment of the tourist tax for our guests we are contributing to a modern and fair framework for tourism in France.”

Previous rules stated that individuals renting out accommodation for short-term stays should impose the taxe de sejour on their guests but that rarely happened.

The government, as well as the country's leading hotel chains, complained that newer and more informal holiday rental sites like Airbnb, in which members of the public rent out their own bedrooms or apartments on a short-term basis, were not bothering to charge the tax and then hand it over to authorities.

Airbnb was launched in Paris back in 2012 and has since become the site's top destination in the world ahead of New York and Los Angeles.

From having around 4,000 adverts for Paris on its site back in 2012, it now numbers 50,000. That compares to 80,000 hotel beds in the city, so it's no surprise the traditional hoteliers are getting twitchy.

In February this year hotels declared war on the site in an open letter to the prime minister Manuel Valls calling on him to level the playing field.

“Without respect for the rules, our profession, our values, our jobs, and our investments are in danger,” wrote Roland Heguy, the president of the French Hotel Union UMIH union.

Alain Chauvel, head of reception at the central Paris Hotel Vivienne, agreed that it was time something was done.
“There's not enough supervision,” he told The Local. “If people rent out their apartment solely to tourists, they should have to follow the same rules and conditions as hotels.”

It may not be the last time that authorities in France target Airbnb in a bid to bring it into line with more regulated traditional tourist lodgings.

A July 2014 report into tourist accommodation in France raised doubts about the legality of Airbnb, after one Frenchman was fined €2,000 for illegally subletting his apartment on the site.

French MPs raised concerns about the popular site suggesting lawmakers will soon take the US-based company to task.

“It remains difficult to precisely estimate the activity (of websites such as Airbnb) because they are not domiciled in France and not listed on the Paris stock exchange,” the report by MPs Eric Woerth and Monique Rabin said.

“They are also not subject to the annual requirement to disclose their accounts. It seems that their figures remain secret,” said Woerth.

It's not just in France that Airbnb has made enemies with authorities and the traditional hotel industry. Barcelona has been forced draw up battle plans to deal with Airbnb and in Berlin two thirds of the city's tourist flats were deemed illegal.


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Local authorities in France get power to crack down on Airbnb rentals

Authorities in Paris and other French towns will be able to regulate local businesses who wish to rent property on Airbnb, according to a decree published by the French government. 

Local authorities in France get power to crack down on Airbnb rentals
This illustration picture taken on July 24, 2019 in Paris shows the logo of the US online booking homes application Airbnb on the screen of a tablet. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP)

The news was welcomed by authorities in Paris, who have long battled to keep a check on Airbnb and its impact on the rental market. 

On Sunday, the French government published a decree that allows the City of Paris to subject the renting of local businesses to prior authorisation. 

This decree applies to all types of offices, stores or medical offices who may be turned in holiday rentals. 

It aims to allow towns to limit the growth of rentals on Airbnb, “protect the urban environment and preserve the balance between employment, housing, businesses and services on their territory,” says the decree. 

The news was welcomed by authorities in Paris, which has been witnessing “the multiplication of ground floor business premises being transformed into holiday rentals,” said deputy mayor Ian Brossat, who is in charge of housing, in a press release

This decree which comes into effect on July 1st, “will prevent local businesses from being turned into holiday rentals,” Brossat added on Twitter.

The conditions businesses will have to meet in order to get an authorisation still have to be defined said Brossat, according to Le Figaro. But Paris aims to draft these regulations and get them voted by the end of 2021, so they can come into force at the beginning of 2022. 

Other towns allowed to apply the decree are those who have put into effect “the procedure of a registration number for furnished holiday apartments, owners and, subject to contractual stipulations, tenants of local businesses who wish to rent them as furnished holiday apartments.” 

In recent years, Paris city authorities have made tax registration obligatory for apartment owners and have restricted those renting out their primary residence to a maximum of 120 days a year.

Now if owners want to rent a furnished property for less than a year to holidaymakers, they must apply to local authorities for permission to change the registered use of the space.

They are then required to buy a commercial property of an equivalent or bigger size and convert it into housing as compensation. 

Until then, these onerous and time-consuming tasks did not apply to local businesses who only had to fill out a declaration.  

In February, France’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, ruled that regulations introduced to counter the effects of Airbnb and other short-term rental sites on the local property market were “proportionate” and in line with European law.