Give peer-to-peer car rentals the same deal as vacation rentals

car-sharing
We don't need another multiyear fight.

After a yearslong fight, lawmakers could pass uniform regulations for vacation rentals this year.

A bill by Rep. Jason FischerHB 1011, cleared its final committee last week, punching its ticket to the chamber floor. The Senate companion, SB 1128 by Sen. Manny Diaz, has one committee stop remaining before it too is ready for a floor vote.

If either bill is successful, vacation rental platforms such as Airbnb would be required to collect and remit sales taxes to the state for the rentals they facilitate.

It’s a change the industry is not only receptive to, but actively fighting for — after all, it’s easier on them to deal with one government rather than 67 counties and the scores of municipal fiefdoms they contain.

And all involved say it’s not a new tax. Rather, the platforms would simply be passing along the funds they already owe.

Fischer, one of the more tech-savvy lawmakers in the Capitol, says it’s “common sense.”

Agreed.

Yet, Fischer doesn’t see the need to set statewide rules for peer-to-peer car rentals, despite the industry’s noncompliance with tax laws that the Florida Department of Revenue says are applicable to them.

Hard disagree.

Calling a vacation rental a “rental” is a no-brainer. Guests are paying to use a property that isn’t theirs. Peer-to-peer car-sharing platforms may not admit to being rental platforms, but they too allow users to pay money in exchange for access to something they don’t own. Also known as renting.

But unlike Airbnb, VRBO and others in the vacation rental business, companies like Getaround and Turo aren’t clamoring to send checks to DOR for the taxes and fees they should be collecting. That’s left peer-to-peer rentals with an unfair advantage over traditional rental car companies, which not only collect sales tax, but a surcharge to cover road improvements.

Fischer’s reticence would be understandable if tackling the problem meant waging another home-rule battle in the waning weeks of the Legislative Session. But it doesn’t. There’s already a statewide ruleset for rental car companies.

Lawmakers simply need to clean up statute to clarify that peer-to-peer car-sharing services must abide by the same rules as Enterprise or Hertz.

It’s as simple as swapping out a few words in the vacation rental bill lawmakers are primed to pass.

Diaz’s bill provides that “If a guest uses a payment system on or through an advertising platform to pay for the rental of a vacation rental located in this state, the advertising platform shall collect and remit all taxes imposed under chapters 125 and 212 [Ed. note: sales tax] on the total rental amount charged by the owner or operator for the use of the vacation rental under s. 125.0104 and 212.03.”

Lawmakers could easily take the above and say: “If a renter of a vehicle uses a payment system on or through a peer to peer car sharing platform to pay for the rental of a motor vehicle located in this state, the platform shall collect and remit all taxes imposed under chapter 212 on the total rental amount charged by the owner of the vehicle rented. In order to facilitate the remittance of such taxes, the department must allow peer to peer car sharing platforms to register, collect and remit such taxes.”

Boom. Done.

If lawmakers decide they want to let peer-to-peer platforms continue operating as-is, then it’s a tacit admission that the vacation rental bill does levy new taxes. If it doesn’t, why not treat a similar emerging industry in the same way as the companies that have been providing jobs and collecting taxes to keep our roads in shape?

There’s no reason to let peer-to-peers have the multiyear curing period that ride-hailing apps and vacation rentals got — there are already bills waiting to be heard in committee that would fix the problem this year.

HB 377 by Rep. Chris Latvala and SB 478 by Sen. Keith Perry are ready-to-go solutions. Latvala’s bill needs an OK from the Commerce Committee and it’ll be ready for a floor vote. Perry’s bill needs to be approved by Banking and Insurance — which has TP’d it three times due to a lack of time — as well as Appropriations.

If they aren’t going to get a fair shot, just give the rental car industry the same deal vacation rentals got. It’s “common sense.”

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


One comment

  • Theresa

    February 24, 2020 at 4:12 pm

    The rental industry wants their businesses in residential neighborhoods. They also gave $1.25 million to our legislators.

    The great majority of residents/voters do not. See St. Petes Polls and Living in Florida polls for evidence. And, watch recordings of hearings and public testimony and you will see this for yourself.

    Vacation rentals and car sharing are not similar at all

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