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Hawaii may subpoena Airbnb for tax records of rental hosts

Published:Friday | November 8, 2019 | 9:07 AM
This October 29, 2013 file photo shows people at Lanikai Beach, a popular neighborhood for vacation rentals, in Kailua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy, File)

HONOLULU (AP) — A judge ruled Wednesday that Hawaii tax authorities may subpoena Airbnb for records of its hosts as the state investigates whether operators of vacation rentals have been paying their taxes.

First Circuit Court Judge Bert Ayabe approved the subpoena after a brief hearing.

Airbnb and the state Department of Taxation have already agreed which records the company will provide: those of 1,000 Hawaii hosts who received the most revenue from 2016 through 2018.

The company also will provide data for hosts who had more than $2,000 in annual revenue during those years, but their identities will remain anonymous.

The state may then request individual records for those hosts, but it will be able to obtain information on only 500 hosts every two weeks.

If a host files a legal challenge, Airbnb won’t provide the data until the case is resolved.

The subpoena sets the foundation for similar enforcement action the state may take with other vacation rental platforms, Department Director Rona Suzuki said in a statement.

“We look forward to receiving the data specified in the agreement with Airbnb,” she said.

Hawaii said it needs the subpoena because it can’t get the data another way and requires the court’s permission to serve it because the investigation targets a group of taxpayers, not specific individuals.

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