San Francisco Tax Collector Letter Background
San Francisco’s rules regulating short-term rentals require that hosts obtain both a short-term rental registration number and a business registration certificate through the San Francisco Treasurer’s office.
Any home rental in San Francisco for fewer than 30 days is subject to a 14% transient occupancy tax (TOT). Airbnb has been working hard to simplify hosting in San Francisco by collecting and remitting TOT for San Francisco hosts since October 1, 2014.
We began collecting and remitting TOT to streamline the hosting process and to help our community contribute its fair share. When we first launched the program, those hosts who were first to comply with the City’s new law began receiving monthly notices requiring them to separately pay and itemize TOT to the City, even though Airbnb was already collecting and remitting these taxes. This created confusion and concern for our SF host community.
In order to properly credit hosts for TOT payments made by Airbnb, the SF Treasurer required Airbnb to become a Qualified Website Company (QWC). As a QWC, Airbnb is required to submit certain data to the SF Treasurer. We spent nearly a year working with the City to ensure that proper safeguards were in place to protect the privacy of our community’s tax information. In August 2015, Airbnb was formally recognized as a QWC and we began submitting tax data to the SF Treasurer.
Now that Airbnb is a QWC, if you host exclusively on Airbnb you will no longer be required to submit individual TOT filings or obtain a separate certificate of authority (COA) to collect tax. However, all hosts are still required to obtain a business registration certificate.
In October 2015, the SF Treasurer began using the tax data provided to contact hosts regarding the long-standing business registration certificate requirement.
What does this mean for hosts in San Francisco?
In August 2015, Airbnb began providing data to the SF Treasurer on a monthly basis (described here).
We want to help protect your personal information, and so we didn’t give it to the City without assurances from them about how the data Airbnb provides can be used. Under SF law, we expect these records to be treated with the same level of confidentiality as your taxpayer records when you file tax returns. SF law includes provisions prohibiting the Treasurer’s Office from sharing information provided by Airbnb with other federal, state or local agencies.
How does the business registration certificate process work?
Anyone engaged in business in San Francisco must get a business registration certificate. The business registration certificate is administered by the SF Treasurer and is separate from Short Term Rental registration number that must be obtained from the Planning Department.
The business registration certificate is an annual requirement. It’s valid from July 1-June 30, and must be renewed by May 31 of each year. The minimum annual fee is $75. The fee is based on your payroll and gross receipts for the year.
How do I respond to the letter?
The Tax Collector has created an online portal that hosts can use to respond to the letter.
- If you’re ready to apply for a business registration certificate, you can begin the online registration process.
- If you already have a business registration certificate and host exclusively through Airbnb, you can file an online declaration so that you are no longer required to submit TOT filings.
- If you are no longer hosting, or never did, but received the letter from the SF Treasurer, notify the SF Treasurer of your status by completing this inactive host online form.
We know that San Francisco’s rules are complicated and we want to do what we can to help. We have updated our SF Responsible Hosting Page to include the latest information regarding the business registration certificate process. If you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.Last updated: December 2, 2015