HUDSON–Columbia County is considering imposing occupancy taxes on Airbnb and other short term rentals (STRs), while some towns are considering imposing their own fees on them.
The County Board of Supervisors Subcommittee on Occupancy Taxes met July 17 and identified several questions to iron out before presenting a tax proposal. Board Chairman Matt Murell (R-Stockport) recommended resolving the questions by February. This would allow time for the full board to hold a public hearing on the proposal and pass a resolution in March or April 2020. After passing the resolution, the county will have to enlist sponsors in the state Senate and Assembly and wait for approval by both houses in the legislature. This wait could take at least a year, said Assistant County Attorney Heidi Cochrane, so the earliest the tax could become law would be sometime in 2021.
Open questions include:
• Will the tax also include the City of Hudson, which already has a 4% occupancy tax on STRs?
The City of Troy just received authorization from the state for its own 4% occupancy tax, on top of Rensselaer County’s 3%, making consumers pay 7%, Michael Slawson, chief financial officer for Rensselaer County told the meeting by speaker phone.
Dutchess County has a 4% occupancy tax for the entire county, with no separate tax for any municipality, according to Ann Cooper, Columbia County administrator of tourism.
Mr. Murell acknowledged that the 4% County tax on top of the 4% City tax would “double charge” Hudson. One observer at the meeting said it would be “awkward for the owner of a STR to pay two places”
• How will the county allocate the tax revenue? “In Rensselaer, we don’t allocate it to any particular program. It’s general revenue,” Mr. Slawson told the July 17 meeting.
“The general fund ultimately benefits everybody,” said Supervisor Michael Chameides (D-Hudson, 3rd Ward). “But it doesn’t sound good”
• How will the county collect the taxes and enforce collection? Should it hire a private agent to help collection?
“Dutchess County has over 70% success rate in collection,” according to Mr. Murell. But it spends about $40,000 a year in occupancy tax collection, Ms. Cooper said. She said that Dutchess County has an agreement with Airbnb, in which Airbnb collects its own tax.”
“What’s attractive about Airbnb is that its service is free,” said Mr. Murell.
Some localities collect STR taxes and fees using private companies like Host Compliance, LLC, which has over 250 local government clients that include Denver, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Nashville, and Orlando, according to its website.
A list of Host Compliance’s various services read aloud at the meeting, each cost five figures. “If we use Host Compliance, we should charge rental units to make up the fee,” said Chairman Murell.
One Host Compliance service is a compilation of addresses and monitoring rental activity at them.
“We don’t know how accurate it is,” said Supervisor Chameides.
One question raised about Hot Compliance was what would happen if the company provides an STR address but the owner says: Nobody comes here.
“From my perspective,” said Mr. Murell, “some enforcement is up to individual towns.”
However, “if a town opts into Host Compliance, we should charge a fee,” suggested Supervisor Arthur Bassin (D-Ancram).
The subcommittee decided to hold its next meeting Wednesday, August 21, at 4 p.m., at 401 State Street, in Hudson.
Meanwhile, some localities within the County have or are considering STR registration fees and permits.
Hudson has an annual STR registration fee of $45 per address plus $15 per room, according to a city document.
And the Towns of Hillsdale and Chatham are considering STR registration fees to offset the costs of inspecting the pertinent properties, their supervisors said. Hillsdale might charge its STR fee only initially or at an interval longer than once a year, town Supervisor Peter Cipkowski (D) said by phone July 25. The money from the Hillsdale fee would go to the safety inspector and the code enforcement officer. “We’re not looking to make money off of this,” said Mr. Cipkowski. “We just want to make sure that the people are safe, and quality of life is good.”
“We’re studying the impact of short term rentals on Hillsdale, both the bad and the good,” said Mr. Cipkowski. Based on the results, the town might adopt a town policy to supplement the county one. But the Hillsdale board wants to wait until the county proposal is closer to being finished.
Chatham’s current zoning law does not address STRs, but its proposed new zoning law includes a registration fee for STR “hosts and owners,” Supervisor Maria Lull said July 26 by phone. This will allow the code enforcement officer to make sure the properties are safe for the public, she added. Details of the fee have not yet been worked out.