The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is seeking to find out, through online marketplace and hospitality services such as Airbnb and Expedia, about nationals offering their private homes for rent to visitors.
The interest comes as hoteliers have complained that these private homeowners have an unfair advantage in that they do not pay the climate change levy imposed on visitors’ accommodation established since June 1.
Speaking at a press conference in Kingstown, on Monday, Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, said:
“One of the issues that were raised by the hoteliers was that there are a number of people who are renting their homes, particularly in the Grenadines, but not exclusively, on Airbnb.
“They build these homes and villas and they rent them on the Internet: one night or long stays. And those people are entirely escaping the tax net, they are not paying any taxes of any sort, which is obviously unfair.
“It is an unfair advantage and it is an unfair imposition on the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to conduct these types of businesses and not pay taxes and Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Tourism is working with Airbnb, Expedia and the other places where these are listed online to get better data about how they are rented so that we can also collect taxes from them.”
Meanwhile, the minister also said he had chosen not to respond, earlier this year, to comments generated after a letter to the government from the Hotel and Tourism Association made it into the public sphere.
“I chose not to disclose our on-going correspondence because I didn’t think this was a matter that should be sort of litigated in the press. So, there was only this one letter out, which was one part of a series of correspondences.”
The industry group had expressed concerns about the potential impact of the tax of US$3 per night, per room, which came into effect on existing and future bookings.
He said the government had met the hoteliers prior to the Budget and the levy was crafted in keeping with their suggestions.
“… the Hotel and Tourism Association is clear that there is a levy, that the levy is in effect and the Inland Revenue Department is working out the mechanics of the registration and billing processes, essentially,” the finance minister said.