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Tax Law

Sunshine State Vacation Verdict: Florida Court Rules Online Platforms Not Responsible for Collecting Tourist Development Tax

The Florida District Court of Appeal affirmed a trial court decision holding that certain online vacation rental platforms (the “Companies”) are not required to collect and remit Palm Beach County’s Tourist Development Tax (“TDT”). The Companies each provide an online platform where property owners can advertise their properties for short-term rentals. The Court explained that the Companies do not own, possess, or have a leasehold interest to convey in any of the properties listed on their online platforms, and that the Companies are simply conduits through which customers can compare properties and rates and book a reservation at the chosen property. Accordingly, the Court concluded that the Companies are not in the taxable business of renting, leasing, or letting transient accommodations as contemplated by the TDT statute. The Court rejected the argument that, because the Companies receive the consideration on the owners’ behalf, they are “dealers” and are required to collect and remit the TDT. The Court explained that a dealer is one who can grant a possessory interest in the property, and reasoned that because the Companies do not own the properties and cannot grant a possessory interest in them, they are not dealers. The Court also determined that the Companies do not act as agents of the property owners for purposes of exercising the taxable privilege of renting.

Gannon v. Airbnb, Inc., No. 4D19-541 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. Mar. 25, 2020).