Fate of bill to require Airbnb tax ID remains unclear

The question remains: Will the full NH Senate approve the measure?

A bill that would require New Hampshire residents those renting out in their homes though services like Airbnb and HomeAway to include their rooms and meals tax ID numbers on advertisements cleared another hurdle Monday, but its fate remains uncertain.

The House on Monday agreed to accept the Senate’s amended language on House Bill 1590 in an odd conference committee meeting at which Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, argued against the very bill the conference committee would be recommending for passage.

The Senate had already voted to pass the exact language, but on a 13-11 vote. Now it must go back for another vote by the Senate and the House before making its way to Gov. Maggie Hassan for her signature.

HB 1590, which started in the House as a requirement for those who offer short-term rentals to register as a business, quickly morphed in the House into a simple requirement for a tax ID.

Some senators were concerned that the measure would also alert municipalities to people out of compliance with local zoning ordinances. To allay such concerns, the Senate Finance Committee amended the bill to clarify that “nothing in this section shall be construed to change or alter the nature of the use of a property for the purpose of determining compliance with a local zoning ordinance.”

It also limited the NH Department of Revenue Administration to only being able to issue a warning for a first offense, before the agency would be able to revoke or deny a license to operate.

‘Scarlet letter’

But Sanborn – who objected to the bill on the Senate floor, forcing that close roll call vote – on Monday “for the record,” repeated his criticism as the only senator to show up for the conference committee, even after House representatives quickly acceded to the Senate changes.

(Sanborn was later joined at the very end of the meeting by Sen. Andrew Homer, D-Laconia.)

Sanborn again called the requirement a “scarlet letter” because it singled out the short-term rental industry, while not imposing the same requirements on hotels. He suggested that those who rent out their place less than two weeks out of the year be exempted – an idea that had not been brought up in previous debates.

He also added that the requirement that licensees file a form each month would be onerous for those who only rent out their rooms on a few occasions.

But Rep. John Hunt, R-Rindge, who engages in short-term rentals himself, said that while the monthly form is annoying, it only took a matter of minutes to fill out. And he said that the tax ID requirement is needed so that “people who don’t know, or understand, or are intentionally trying to avoid” the requirement to pay the rooms and meal tax be made aware of it.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ed Butler, D-Hart’s Location, and owner of the Notchland Inn, added that the occasional weekends – for example, Independence Day, Bike Week or during foliage season – “are really important to our business,” adding that the sharing economy presents an “economic challenge.” That’s why, he said, it’s important that they pay the same taxes as the rest of the hospitality industry.

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