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Airbnb asks courts to dismiss claim from Florida county over taxes

By Takesha Thomas | Mar 12, 2019

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) – Airbnb has filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit by a Florida county over the collection of taxes.

On Feb. 22, Airbnb Inc. filed a motion to dismiss in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Division against Broward County. The lawsuit asks the court to grant the county's request that Airbnb be required to pay tourist development taxes (TDT) on transactions prior to a 2017 agreement. 

Airbnb argued that while the county "concedes that Airbnb operates an online platform on which a guest can obtain a reservation from a property owner who has chosen to list their accommodation on the platform. It is the property owner – the host – who possesses and can transfer possession of their accommodation, and, thus, it is the host – not Airbnb – who exercises the taxable privilege of renting, leasing or letting accommodations."

The county filed a complaint in the 17th Judicial Circuit Court on Feb. 15 asking the court for declaratory judgment against Airbnb, seeking for the court to determine that Airbnb has a legal duty to remit the taxes, declare that Airbnb is a dealer under the state's administrative code, and to determine the amount of taxes owed. Airbnb removed the case to federal court.

Those back taxes, the county alleges, date back to May 1, 2017. The county claims that Airbnb owners are designated as dealers under Florida and county administrative codes and therefore are subject to the tax. 

In its latest filing, Airbnb has asked that that the court dismiss the claims, alleging that it does "not themselves possess, and transfer possession of, lodging accommodations, and thus, cannot rent, lease, or let rooms."

The county contends that it has a "legal duty" to collect and remit the TDT. 

In April 2017, Airbnb entered into a memorandum of understanding with the county that it would begin collecting the TDT for rentals after May 1, 2017. In addition, Airbnb agreed to register as a dealer. 

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