County plans to tax short-term rentals

HUDSON–The Columbia County Board of Supervisors is exploring the possibility of a countywide occupancy tax for short term rentals, such as Airbnb. Its Occupancy Charge Review Committee met February 14 and discussed legal requirements, what other local governments are doing, projections and host compliance.

Enacting the tax can take over a year, explained Assistant County Attorney Heidi Cochrane. The legal process starts with a public hearing and continues with a county Board resolution, enlisting sponsors in the state Senate and Assembly, and finally a vote of approval by the State Legislature. The last step can take up to a year after the county first contacts the legislature.

The City of Hudson has had a short-term occupancy tax since June 1, 2017. It is 4% of the rent plus an annual registration fee of $45 per address plus $15 per room, according to a city document. From this, Hudson collects about $240,000 a year, reported County Controller/Auditor Ron Caponera. He noted that, if the county had a similar tax, Hudson might “want to” either to join the county system or “stay on its own.”

Dutchess County has a 4% short-term occupancy tax for the entire County, with no separate agreement for any municipality, reported Ann Cooper, administrator of the Columbia County Tourism Department. In addition, Dutchess “has an agreement with Airbnb,” in which Airbnb collects its own tax. Meanwhile, some traditional bed-and-breakfast operations are converting to Airbnb because of bookkeeping considerations. From 3,091 beds, Dutchess County budgets $3.2 million annually in revenue.

In Columbia County outside of Hudson, there are 794 rentable beds: 230 in motels and bed-and-breakfasts, 564 in short-term rentals, Mr. Caponera said. For revenue projections, he suggested assuming a 40% occupancy rate.

To assure host compliance to the tax, Dutchess County spends about $40,000 a year, Ms. Cooper said.

But “the intent of this committee is not to enforce compliance,” said Supervisor Matt Murell (R-Stockport), chairman of both the committee and the County Board of Supervisors. He said the committee exists only to explore and develop a proposal for the tax.

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