Home-sharing through websites like Airbnb and HomeAway has meant more lodging choices for visitors to Massachusetts. And it’s allowed property owners to earn money renting out their spare rooms and stately Colonials.
But it’s also become a source of considerable agita on Beacon Hill: How to tax and regulate this sudden behemoth?
Lawmakers are feeling pressure from all sides: Airbnb, which wants a light touch; the hotel industry, which says its surging competitor should be subject to the same rules it has long abided; and housing advocates, concerned that short-term rentals are taking much-needed units off the market.
For all the complexities and competing interests, though, the path forward is surprisingly clear: The state should tax home-sharing but impose only a basic set of safety and antidiscrimination regulations on the industry, leaving it to cities and towns to add more rules as they see fit.
Start with taxes. Over 250 American jurisdictions — from the state of Connecticut to the city of Sebastopol, Calif. — already collect levies. Airbnb itself has embraced the trend. “Read my lips: ‘we want to pay taxes,’ ” said Chris Lehane, head of global policy for Airbnb, […]