For short-term rentals, enforce what’s already on books

Hawaii already has many regulations relating to short-term rentals on the books, like the requirement of payment of the general excise tax, the transient accomodations tax, increased property tax rates, and income tax as related to the income from rentals.

Hawaii also has existing regulations regarding who can manage a rental property. Many neighborhoods have CCR’s that limit short-term rentals. There are many regulations related to zoning, land use, building codes and residential density. It has been my observation that there is little or no enforcement of laws or regulations that already exist. Do we really need to add more rules and regulations when the current ones are not enforced?

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I suspect part of why the current regulations are not enforced are lack of staff and funds.

According to West Hawaii Today’s Feb. 27 article, over 6,000 short-term vacation rental owners are not paying their taxes that are due. I have one hosted Airbnb in my home and I pay in excess of $5,000 a year in extra taxes.

Hmmm … that could easily mean an additional 30 million a year in revenue being generated for the state and county, if unpaid taxes were collected. Airbnb has repeatedly offered to collect and remit taxes for its users to the state of Hawaii at no cost to the state. Gov. David Ige has vetoed the bill allowing/requiring online booking sites to remit taxes. Why? Urge your legislators to pass a “clean” bill for simplified tax collection.

Let’s start with getting the revenues in to pay for current enforcement before adding a new layer of bureaucracy and regulations. Only then should we be considering ideas to deal with the new economies of the internet, vacation rental or otherwise.

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Marian Hughes’ ideas in the My Turn section on March 7 offer a great start. And how about pushing to get Hawaii County’s fair share of the TAT in the form of a percentage instead of a capped amount. That way the more tax dollars we generate, the more Hawaii County and its residents benefit.

Liz Lees is a resident of Kailua-Kona.