Airbnb makes a fair decision to collect and remit to the state sales taxes collected on behalf of home hosts in North Carolina. It also will collect hotel occupancy taxes in Wake, Durham Mecklenburg and Buncombe counties. This answers the concerns of those in the hospitality industry that homeowners renting rooms through Airbnb had an unfair advantage in charging lower prices and then not having to charge taxes.
Airbnb is one of an increasing number of services wherein individuals can offer rooms to short- or long-term guests out of their homes. They’re not subject to the rules of regular hotels. The hotels don’t like the competition, but their objection about the tax “loophole” was a fair one.
Regulation of these services, including Uber, the ride-for-a-fee service, is a work in progress. These practices, industries, whatever one wants to call them, are new and so is the task of deciding how and how much to regulate them.
Airbnb’s officials seem inclined to go along with regulation, and they’re smart to do so. It’s unlikely they can fend off all rules, and by cooperating Airbnb is apt to get rules more to its liking.
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In a tight economy where people are looking to add to their income, it’s fair to let them offer rooms in their homes, a common practice in other countries. But such practices do have to be regulated, not just for economic fairness but for ensuring the safety of guests and, in the case of Uber, riders. Many customers for these services swear by them, and they’re part of a growing “sharing economy” fueled by the spread of mobile devices. But even a new form of commerce must be subject to traditional standards of fairness and safety.