Airbnb scam - Tax-dodging villas charging US$5,000
The Government is being urged to crack down on lavish guest houses and villas operating under the guise of Airbnb interests that are charging thousands of US dollars per night while dodging tax authorities.
Wayne Cummings, a past president and council member of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), revealed that several large investors are charging as high as US$5,000 (J$670,000) per villa under the mask of Airbnb accommodations.
According to Cummings, the Holness administration must act quickly to regulate the sector and protect the booming tourist industry, which is a major source of government revenue.
“Some of those persons are hiding under the guise of being a home resident. That is something that we have to grapple with,” said Cummings, who was speaking at the International Realtors Conference and Expo in Montego Bay yesterday.
“The difference is the US$5,000 villa in Tryall. Let us be very clear: Some of us are hiding, some of us very big people,” he said, pointing the finger at major players who are charging big bucks without formalising their operations.
Cummings has charged the Government to get tough on unscrupulous operators trying to hustle the tourism sector. Referring to the upswing in Jamaica’s macroeconomic indicators, the JHTA official urged perpetrators gaming the system to emerge from the shadows.
“What I don’t appreciate is when you have persons who are renting their rooms for US$2,000, US$3,000, and US$4,000 per night, and then they say, no, ‘We are a little, small hustle,” said Cummings.
There is a big difference between fledgling operators renting an extra room in a house and commercial operators of sprawling guest houses and villas.
“What we are concerned about is that if those of us who follow the rule of law as taxpayers, who from the room taxes straight through to the general consumption tax, then we ought to make sure that everyone else within their space, within what is prescribed for them to pay, is being abided by,” added Cummings.
In July, president of the JHTA, Omar Robinson, said that owners and operators of Airbnb properties should be asked to pay hotel accommodation tax, which he said was consistent with regimes in other tourism destinations across the region.