British Columbia

Airbnb generating almost twice as much PST and municipal tax as expected in B.C.

The short-term rental platform agreed to start collecting the taxes starting on Oct 1, 2018, and the money has been pouring in ever since.

The short-term rental service started collecting the taxes in late 2018

Airbnb collected $14 million in provincial sales tax in the first six months it started charging it to customers That's almost twice as much as expected. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

B.C. is on track to collect millions more from Airbnb in provincial sales tax than was originally estimated.

Airbnb says it has remitted $14 million in PST in the first six months of collecting the tax which kicked in Oct. 1, 2018.

That means the tax money is rolling in at almost twice the expected rate because when Airbnb signed the tax agreement last year, the company pegged the remittance to be $16 million for the entire first year.

Airbnb Canada's Alex Dagg says the tax windfall is a direct reflection of the platform's popularity.

"There's just been a continuing growth of interest in people coming to British Columbia and continuing interest in people using our platform as a way of seeing British Columbia," said Dagg.

Money collected through the Airbnb PST is earmarked for affordable housing.

Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky speaks during an event in San Francisco last year. (The Associated Press)

Airbnb has also remitted $4 million in Municipal and Regional District Tax in the first six months of collecting it — also close to double the amount originally estimated. 

Vancouver has so far received the largest slice of that tax at $1.4 million, while Victoria has raised $350,000. The tax is levied at up to three per cent, depending on the municipality, and is directed toward tourism initiatives.

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James said in a statement that the province brought in the tax agreement to make sure Airbnb and its customers were paying their fair share. 

So far, Airbnb is the only short-term rental company to sign a tax agreement with the province. 

"We look forward to continuing our ongoing discussions to make sure all online accommodation providers come to the table and pay their fair share," said James. 

Airbnb currently lists over 31,000 B.C. properties on its platform.