Newstalk
Newstalk

14.54 13 Aug 2015


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Online accommodation website Airbnb has published advice it has received from accountancy firm Ernst & Young (EY) regarding tax liabilities for hosts.

Airbnb asked EY to prepare a report giving its understanding of the technical position.

Ernst & Young is supporting Airbnb's view that Irish hosts should come under a rent a room scheme that allows people to earn €12,000 tax free.

That scheme is designed to cover money earned from renting out rooms for the purposes of ‘residential accommodation’, but the parameters of that are not defined.

Revenue says what Airbnb hosts are offering is not residential accommodation.

However, consultants EY write that the 'ordinary meaning' of 'residential accommodation' is 'living accommodation' and that Airbnb Ireland’s hosts should therefore be included.

No precedent

The financial advisors admit there is no precedent from the Irish courts, but that in the UK a judge has ruled the length of the letting is not to be determinative of its status as 'residential accommodation', rather it means 'living accommodation'.

Ernst and Young say the rules in Ireland are very similar to the rules in the UK and they contend the definitions should therefore be interpreted in the same way.

Airbnb's legal team agrees.

The website has indicated it would like the courts to decide, but they want hosts take their own cases against Revenue.

In the meantime, they are continuing to advise hosts that their income information has been handed over to Revenue and they are responsible for making sure they are tax compliant.

They have said they will not stand over EY or senior counsel's view if a host decides to follow their advice.

Airbnb hosts now face retrospective tax bills dating back to at least the middle of 2014.

Not all hosts opposed

Newstalk.com spoke to Airbnb host Sarah Lafferty about the move.

"I'm surprised that everybody's so surprised. Of course if you earn money you have to pay taxes, and earning on Airbnb is no different. I started hosting a couple of years ago. I have declared income from day one - I am self-employed so I am quite used to that."

"I have set up two businesses in the last few years and at the beginning of a new business it takes a while to get up and running - the income from Airbnb has helped in the meantime.

"One thing I do feel really strongly about is that we want to be this kind of country where people see it as a civic duty to pay taxes... there are so many other European countries where some people are paying too much and others are not paying at all."

"If it weren't for Airbnb I would have considered emigrating"

In fact, Sarah says Airbnb has been really good for her financially, despite the fact that she pays taxes on her income.

"Airbnb has been amazing for me in other ways. Because I am an interior designer and there are so many photographs of my house on the website my house has been featured in design publications in the States, on an American TV show and it has also been used as a film location."

She says now that her businesses are taking off she probably won't host guests from Airbnb as often. But she insists she couldn't have done it without Airbnb.

"If Airbnb hadn't been around I would have considered emigrating. The income that I've got hasn't been massive but I've used it really wisely to invest in my own businesses and to start up my own businesses."


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