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The $21 Million Problem

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As New Yorkers prepare to finish their taxes and send checks to New York City and State, it's worth considering a simple fact: my company is legally prohibited from helping collect and remit more than $21 million in taxes to the City and State of New York. Unless we get some help from elected officials, New York will leave $21 million on the table.

Let me explain.

Several years ago, I helped start Airbnb, a company that makes it easy for people to share their homes with travelers. New Yorkers were some of the first to use our platform. Today, our community is in 35,000 cities in 192 countries. More than 11 million guests have spent the night in an Airbnb. Countless friendships have been formed and hosts earn extra money to help pay the bills. But this idea is about much more than just making ends meet. From the very beginning, we have seen how homesharing helps travelers have a truly local experience in cities around the world.

Those unique experiences have generated real money for communities and businesses. Airbnb hosts and guests will pay an estimated $36.6 million in sales taxes while they are in New York this year. Local businesses -- many in neighborhoods that haven't benefited from tourism in the past -- will take in millions from Airbnb guests. And all of our hosts are required to pay taxes on the income they earn. All told, we estimate that our community will generate $768 million in economic activity in New York this year and support 6,600 jobs.

We are proud of the positive impact we have had in New York because we strongly believe in helping make cities stronger socially, economically, and environmentally. And we want to do more.

Recently, we launched our Shared City initiative. It's our plan to help civic leaders and our community create more shareable, more livable cities. We are highlighting cities' unique characteristics and diverse neighborhoods, making it easy for hosts to donate the money they earn to a local cause, and making smoke and carbon monoxide detectors available to hosts across the country for free.

As part of this initiative, we are continuing our work to help ensure our community pays its fair share in taxes. We want to collect occupancy related taxes on behalf of our hosts from guests who stay in an Airbnb in New York, and hand that money over to the government. We estimate that we'd pay at least $21 million in taxes the first year, and it would only go up from there.

We made this decision after speaking with the regular New Yorkers who make up the Airbnb community. We are a young company and there are a lot of subjects to tackle when it comes to homesharing, but New Yorkers told us time and time again that paying their fair share was their top priority. We heard them loud and clear. We examined the issue and the thousands of different tax laws that govern homesharing and vary from city to city and block to block. And we want to act now to help resolve this matter for our community by collecting taxes and sending millions of dollars to Albany and City Hall.

But today, officials in New York tell us that current tax laws prevent us from collecting those taxes, and even if we did, the government couldn't take the check. The result is bad for everyone. Today, hosts who are simply renting their own homes a few days or weeks a year don't know what to collect or how to pay. And New York loses millions of dollars.

Unlike many companies who go to government officials to ask for tax breaks, we've done just the opposite and asked leaders in Albany to change the law to let our community pay taxes.

I hope policymakers in Albany let us contribute more to New York. Every day, I talk to Airbnb hosts and guests who want to pay their fair share and do more for the city they love. We should let them pay occupancy taxes.

Then, we should move on to the next issue and clarify the laws that govern homesharing in New York. We can fix this law and still crack down on illegal hotel operators by simply making it clear that New Yorkers are free to share the home in which they live.

Clarifying these rules hasn't been easy. But everyone shares the goal of a New York with more prosperous small businesses and stronger neighborhoods. We all want more New Yorkers to have the economic freedom to take a risk and start a new business. And we all want to help New Yorkers share the city they love with the people of the world. If we work together, our community can contribute more to this amazing city and help achieve that vision.